The supply of money in an energy-scarce world

Posted on August 4, 2011 by admin 3 Comments

Richard Douthwaite

Money has no value unless it can be exchanged for goods and services but these cannot be supplied without the use of some form of energy. Consequently, if less energy is available in future, the existing stock of money can either lose its value gradually through inflation or, if inflation is resisted, be drastically reduced by the collapse of the banking system that created it. Many over-indebted countries face this choice at present — they cannot preserve both their banking systems and their currency’s value. To prevent this conflict in future, money needs to be issued in new, non-debt ways.

The crux of our present economic problems is that the relationship between energy and money has broken down. In the past, supplies of money and energy were closely linked. For example, I believe that a gold currency was essentially an energy currency because the amount of gold produced in a year was determined by the cost of the energy it took to extract it. If energy (perhaps in the form of slaves or horses rather than fossil fuel) was cheap and abundant, gold mining would prove profitable and, coined or not, more gold would go into circulation enabling more trading to be done. If the increased level of activity then drove the price of slaves or steam coal up, the flow of gold would decline, slowing the rate at which the economy grew. It was a neat, natural balancing mechanism between the money supply and the amount of trading which worked rather well.

In fact, the only time it broke down seriously was when the Spanish conquistadors got gold for very little energy — by stealing it from the Aztecs and the Incas. That damaged the Spanish economy for many years because it meant that wealthy Spaniards could afford to buy from abroad rather than using the skills of their own people, which consequently did not develop. It was an early example of “the curse of oil” or the “paradox of plenty,” the paradox being that that countries with an abundance of non-renewable resources tend to develop less than countries with fewer natural resources. Britain suffered from this curse when North Sea oil began to come ashore, distorting the exchange rate and putting many previously sound firms out of business.

19th-century gold rushes were all about the conversion of human energy into money as the thousands of ordinary 21st-century people now mining alluvial deposits in the Amazon basin show. Obviously, if supplies of food, clothing and shelter were precarious, a society would never devote its energies to finding something that its members could neither eat, nor live in, and which would not keep them warm. In other words, gold supplies swelled in the past whenever a culture had the energy to produce a surplus. Once there was more gold available, its use as money made more trading possible, enabling a society’s resources to be converted more easily into buildings, clothes and other needs.

Other ways of converting human energy into money have been used besides mining gold and silver. For example, the inhabitants of Yap, a cluster of ten small islands in the Pacific Ocean, converted theirs into carved stones to use as money. They quarried the stones on Palau, some 260 miles away and ferried them back on rafts pulled by canoes, but once on Yap, the heavy stones were rarely moved, just as no gold has apparently left Fort Knox for many years. According to Glyn Davies’ mammoth study, The History of Money, the Yap used their stone money until the 1960s.

Wampum, the belts made from black and white shells by several Native American tribes on the New England coast, is a 17th-century example of human-energy money. Originally, the supply of belts was limited by the enormous amount of time required to collect the shells and assemble them, particularly as holes had to be made in the shells with Stone Age technology – drills tipped with quartz. The currency was devalued when steel drill bits enabled less time to be used and the last workshop drilling the shells and putting them on strings for use as money closed in 1860.

The last fixed, formal link between money and gold was broken on August 15, 1971, when President Nixon ordered the US Treasury to abandon the gold exchange standard and stop delivering one ounce of gold for every $35 that other countries paid in return. This link between the dollar and energy was replaced by an agreement that the US then made with OPEC through the US-Saudi Arabian Joint Commission on Economic Cooperation that “backed” the dollar with oil. [1] OPEC agreed to quote the global oil price in dollars and, in return, the US promised to protect the oil-rich kingdoms in the Persian Gulf against threat of invasion or domestic coups. This arrangement is currently breaking down.

The most important link between energy and money today is the consumer price index. The central banks of every country in the world keep a close eye on how much their currency is worth in terms of the prices of the things the users of that currency purchase. Energy bills, interest payments and labour costs are key components of those prices. If a currency shows signs of losing its purchasing power, the central bank responsible for managing it will reduce the amount in circulation by restricting the lending the commercial banks are able to do. This means that, if energy prices are going up because energy is getting scarcer, the amount of money in circulation needs to become scarcer too if it is to maintain its energy-purchasing power.

A scarcer money supply is a serious matter because the money we use was created by someone somewhere going into debt, and if there is less money about, interest payments make those debts harder to repay. Money and debt are co-created in the following way. If a bank approves a loan to buy a car, the moment the purchaser’s cheque is deposited in the car dealer’s account, more money — the price of the car — comes into existence, an amount balanced by the extra debt in the purchaser’s bank account. Consequently, in the current monetary system, the amount of money and the amount of debt are almost equal and opposite. I say “almost” as borrowers have more debt imposed on them every year because of the interest they have to pay. If any of that interest is not spent back into the economy by the banks but is retained by them to boost their capital reserves, there will be more debt than money.

Until recently, if the banks approved more loans and the amount of money in circulation increased, more energy could be produced from fossil-fuel sources to give value to that money. Between 1949 and 1969 — the heyday of the gold exchange standard under which the dollar was linked to gold and other currencies had exchange rates with the dollar — the price of oil was remarkably stable in dollar terms. But when the energy supply was suddenly restricted by OPEC in 1973, two years after the US broke the gold-dollar link, and again in 1979, the price of energy went up. There was just too much money in circulation for it to retain its value in relation to the reduced supply of oil.

The current “credit crunch” came about because of a huge increase in the price of energy. World oil output was almost flat between September 2004 and July 2008 for the simple reason that the output from major oil fields was declining as fast the production from new, smaller fields was growing. Consequently, as more money was lent into circulation, oil’s price went up and up, taking the prices of gas, coal, food and other commodities with it. The rich world’s central bankers were blasé about these price increases because the overall cost of living was stable. In part, this was because lots of cheap manufactured imports were pouring into rich-country economies from China and elsewhere, but the main reason was that a lot of the money being created by the commercial banks’ lending was being spent on assets such as property and shares that did not feature in the consumer price indices they were watching. As a result, they allowed the bank lending to go on and the money supply — and debt — to increase and increase. The only inflation to result was in the price of assets and most people felt good about that as it seemed they were getting richer, on paper at least. The commercial banks liked it too because their lending was being backed by increasingly valuable collateral. What the central banks did not realise, however, was that their failure to rein in their lending meant that they had broken the crucial link between the supply of energy and that of money.

This break damaged the economic system severely. The rapid increase in energy and commodity prices that resulted from the unrestricted money supply meant that more and more money had to leave the consumer-countries to pay for them. The problem with this was that a lot of the money being spent was not returned to the countries that spent it in the form in which it left. It went out as income and came back as capital. I’ll explain. If I buy petrol for my car and part of the price goes to Saudi Arabia, I can only buy petrol again year after year if that money is returned year after year to the economy from which my income comes. This can happen in two ways, one of which is sustainable, the other not. The sustainable way is that the Saudis spend it back by buying goods and services from Ireland, or from countries from which Ireland does not import more than it exports. If they do, the money returns to Ireland as income. The unsustainable way is that the Saudis lend it back, returning it as capital. This enables Ireland to continue buying oil but only by getting deeper and deeper into debt.

As commodity prices rose, the flow of money to the energy and mineral producers increased so rapidly that there was no way that the countries concerned could spend it all back. Nor did they wish to do so. They knew that their exports were being taken from declining resources and that they should invest as much of their income as possible in order to provide an income for future generations when the resources were gone. So they set up sovereign wealth funds to invest their money, very often in their customers’ countries. Or they simply put their funds on deposit in rich-country banks.

The net result was that a lot of the massive increase in the flow of income from the customers’ economies became capital and was lent or invested in the commodity consumers’ economies rather than being spent back in them. This was exactly what had happened after the oil price increases in 1973 and 1979. The loans meant that, before the money became available again for people to spend on petrol or other commodities, at least one person had to borrow it and spend it in a way that converted it back to income.

This applied even if a sovereign wealth fund invested its money in buying assets in a consumer economy. Suppose, for example, the fund bought a company’s outstanding shares rather than a new issue. The sellers of the shares would certainly not spend the entire amount they received as income. They would place most of their money on deposit in a bank, at least for a little while before they bought other assets, and people other than the vendors would have to borrow that money if it was going to be spent as income. As a result, it often took quite a lot of borrowing transactions before the total sum arrived back in people’s pockets.

For example, loans to buy existing houses are not particularly good at creating incomes whereas loans to build new houses are. This is because most of the loan for an existing house will go to the person selling it, although a little will go as income to the estate agent and to the lawyers. The vendor may put the money on deposit in a bank and it will have to be lent out again for more of it to become income. Or it may be invested in another existing property, so someone else gets the capital sum and gives it to a bank to lend. A loan for a new house, by contrast, finances all the wages paid during its construction so a lot of it turns into income. The building boom in Ireland was therefore a very effective way of getting the money the country was over-spending overseas and then borrowing back converted into incomes in people’s pockets. Direct foreign borrowing by governments to spend on public sector salaries is an even more effective way of converting a capital inflow into income.

We can conclude from this that a country that runs a deficit on its trade in goods and services for several years, as Ireland did, will find that its firms and people get heavily in debt because a dense web of debt has to be created within that country to get the purchasing power, lost as a result of the deficit, back into everyone’s hands. This is exactly why the UK and United States are experiencing debt crises too. The US has only had a trade surplus for one year — and that was a tiny one — since 1982 and the UK has not had one at all since 1983.

Table 1: The worst external debtors per $1,000 of GDP in 2006

1

Ireland

$6,251.97

2

United Kingdom

$3,530.89

3

Netherlands

$2,887.82

4

Switzerland

$2,836.01

5

Belgium

$2,686.21

6

Austria

$1,843.11

7

Sweden

$1,554.06

8

France

$1,551.52

9

Denmark

$1,471.46

10  

Portugal

$1,413.50

DEFINITION: Total public and private debt owed to non-residents repayable in foreign currency, goods, or services. Per $ GDP figures expressed per 1,000 $ gross domestic product.
Source: CIA World Factbooks 18 December 2003 to 18 December 2008

Table 2: Ireland’s gross external debt triples over five years

CSO data for the final quarter of each year (m)

2002

521,792

2003

636,925

2004

814,446

2005

1,132,650

2006

1,338,747

2007

1,540,240

2008

1,692,634

2009

1,611,396

Table 3: The world’s biggest balance of payments deficits at the height of the boom in 2007

Deficit, millions

Ranking of absolute size of deficit

Population, millions

Deficit per head

Greece

-$44,400

6

11.0

$4,036

Spain

-$145,300  

2

41.1

$3,535

Ireland

-$14,120  

13

4.0

$3,530

Australia

-$56,780  

4

19.7

$2,882

United States

-$731,200

1

294

$2,486

Portugal

-$21,750

10  

10.1

$2,153

United Kingdom

-$119,200

3

59.3

$2,010

Romania

-$23,020

9

22.3

$1,032

Italy

-$51,030  

5

57.4

889

Turkey

-$37,580  

7

71.3

$527

France

-$31,250  

8

60.1

$520

South Africa

-$20,630  

11

45.0

$458

Poland

-$15,910  

2

38.6

$412

It is notable that all the eurozone countries experiencing a debt crisis — the “PIIGS” Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece and Spain — appear in this table and that the three worst deficits on a per capita basis are those of Greece, Spain and Ireland. The countries in italics have their own currencies and are thus better able to correct their situations.

Source: CIA World Factbook, 18 December 2008, with calculations by the author.

The debts incurred by the current account–deficit countries were of two types: the original ones owed abroad and the much greater value of successor ones owed at home as loans based on the foreign debt were converted to income. Internal debt — that is, debt owed by the state or the private sector to residents of the same country — is much less of a burden than foreign debt but it still harms a country by damaging its competitiveness. It does this despite the fact that paying interest on the debt involves a much smaller real cost to the country since most of the payment is merely a transfer from one resident to another. (The remainder of the payment is taken in fees by the financial services sector and the increase in indebtedness has underwritten a lot of its recent growth.)

Internal debt is damaging because a country with a higher level of internal debt in relation to its GDP than a competing country will have higher costs. This is because, if the rate of interest is the same in both countries, businesses in the more heavily indebted one will have to allow for higher interest charges per unit of output than the other when calculating their operating costs and prices. These additional costs affect its national competitiveness in exactly the same way as higher wages. Indeed, they are the wages of what a Marxist would call the rentier class, a class to which belongs anyone who, directly or indirectly, has interest-bearing savings. A country’s central bank should therefore issue annual figures for the internal-debt to national income ratio.

While internal debt slows a country up, external debt can cause it to default. In their book This Time Is Different, Carmen Reinhart and Ken Rogoff consider external debt in two ways — in relation to a country’s GNP and in relation to the value of its annual exports.

Table 4: How oil imports commandeered an increased share of Ireland’s foreign earnings.


Mineral fuel imports

GNP

Fuel cost as % of GNP

Exports

Fuel cost as % of export earnings

2001

2,219

98,014

2.26

92,690

2.39

2002

1,932

106,494

1.81

93,675

2.06

2003

1,969

117,717

1.67

82,076

2.40

2004

2,814

126,096

2.23

84,409

3.33

2005

4,020

137,265

2.93

86,732

4.63

2006

4,719

152,456

3.10

88,772

5.32

2007

5,728

161,210

3.55

88,571

6.47

2008

6,595

158,343

4.17

86,618

7.61

Source: CSO data with calculations by the author.

The second ratio is the more revealing because exports are ultimately the only means by which the country can earn the money it needs to pay the interest on its overseas borrowings. (A country’s external debt need never be repaid. As its loans become due to be repaid they can be replaced with new ones if its creditors are confident that it can continue to afford to pay the interest.) The book examines 36 sovereign defaults by 30 middle-income countries and finds that, on average, a country was forced to default when its total public and private external debt reached 69.3% of GNP and 230% of its exports.

Poorer countries lend to the world’s richest ones

Graph 2: Rich countries have borrowed massively from “developing” and “transition” countries over the past ten years. This graph shows the net flow of capital. The funds borrowed came predominantly from energy and commodity export earnings. Source: World Situation and Prospects, 2010, published by the UN.

Table 5: The most over-indebted countries at the height of the boom in 2007

 

Total state & private external debt, billions

Export

earnings billions

Ratio

total

external debt to exports

GDP

billions

Ratio

total

external debt to GDP

1

United Kingdom

$10,450  

$442.2

2360%

2,674

391%

2

Ireland

$1,841  

$115.5

1590%

268

687%

3

United States

$12,250  

$1,148

1070%

14,093

87%

4

France

$4,396  

$546

810%

2,857

154%

5

Switzerland

$1,340  

$200.1

670%

492

272%

6

Australia

$824.9  

$142.1

580%

1,015

81%

7

Netherlands

$2,277  

$456.8

500%

871

261%

8

Italy

$2,345  

$502.4

470%</span>

2.303

102%

9

Spain

$1,084  

$256.7

420%

1,604

68%

10

Belgium

$1,313  

$322.2

410%

504

261%

11

Germany

$4,489  

$1,354

330%

3,649

123%

12

Japan

$1,492  

$678.1

220%

4,911

30%

Countries that exceed the average level at which countries in the Reinhart and Rogoff study defaulted are marked in a darker shade.

As Table 5 shows, almost a dozen rich countries are in danger of default by the Reinhart-Rogoff criteria. The total amount of debt in the world in 2010 is roughly 2.5 times what it was ten years ago in large part as a result of the spend-and-borrow-back process. This means that there is 2.5 times as much money about, but not, of course, 2.5 times as much energy. If much of that new money was ever used to buy energy, the price of energy would soar. In other words, money would be devalued massively as the money-energy balance was restored. The central banks are determined to prevent this happening, as we will discuss in a little while.

World debt more than doubles in ten years

Graph 3: Rich-country debt has grown remarkably in the past ten years because of the amount of lending generated by capital flows from fossil energy– and commodity-producing nations was used to inflate asset bubbles. The emerging economies, by contrast, invested borrowed money in increasing production. As a result, their debt/GDP ratio declined. Source: The Economist.

Most of the world’s increased debt is concentrated in richer countries. Their debt-to-GDP ratio has more than doubled whereas in the so-called “emerging economies” the debt-to-GDP ratio has declined. This difference can be explained by adapting an example given by Peter Warburton in his 1999 book, Debt and Delusion. Suppose I draw 1,000 on my overdraft facility at my bank to buy a dining table and chairs. The furniture store uses most of its margin on the sale to pay its staff, rent, light and heat. Say 250 goes this way. It uses most of the rest of my payment to buy new stock, say, 700. The factory from which it orders it then purchases wood and pays its costs and wages. Perhaps 650 goes this way, but since the wood is from overseas, 100 of the 650 leaks out of my country’s economy. And so I could go on, following each payment back and looking at how it was spent and re-spent until all the euros I paid finally go overseas. The payments which were made to Irish resident firms and people as a result of my 1,000 loan contribute to Irish national income. If we add up only those I’ve mentioned here — 1,000 + 250 + 700 + 550 — we can see that Irish GDP has increased by 2,500 as a result of the 1,000 debt that I took on. In other words, the debt-to-GDP ratio was 40%.

As debt increases, US economy grows by less and less

Graph 4: Because borrowings have been invested predominantly in purchasing assets rather than in production capacity, each increase in borrowing in the US has raised national income by less and less. The most recent bout of borrowing — to rescue the banking system — actually achieved negative returns because it failed to stop the economy contracting. Graph prepared by Christopher Rupe and Nathan Martin with US Treasury figures dated 11 March 2010. Source: http://economicedge.blogspot.com/2010/04/guest-post-and-more-on-most-important.html

Now suppose that rather than buying furniture, I invest my borrowed money in buying shares from someone who holds them already, rather than a new issue. Of the 1,000 I pay, only the broker’s commission and the taxes end up as anyone’s income. Let’s say those amount to 100. If so, the debt-to-GDP ratio is 1000%.

So one reason why the debt burden has grown in “rich” countries and fallen in “emerging” ones is the way the debt was used. A very much higher proportion of the money borrowed in some richer countries went to buying up assets, and thus bidding up their prices, than it did in the poorer ones. After a certain point in the asset-buying countries, it was the rising price of assets that made their purchase attractive, rather than the income that could be earned from them. Rents became inadequate to pay the interest on a property’s notional market value, while in the stock market, the price-earnings ratio rose higher and higher.

Only a small proportion of the money created when the banks lent money to buy assets was spent in what we might call the real economy, the one in which everyday needs are produced and sold. The rest stayed as what the money reform activist David J. Weston called “stratospheric money” in his contribution to the New Economics Foundation’s 1986 book The Living Economy; in other words, money that moves from bank account to bank account in payment for assets, with very little of it coming down to earth. The fraction that does flow down to the real economy each year is normally balanced — and sometimes exceeded — by flows in the other direction such as pension contributions and other forms of asset-based saving. The flows in the two directions are highly unstable, however, not least because those who own stratospheric assets know that they can only convert them to real-world spending power at anything like their current paper value if other people want to buy them. If they see trouble coming, they need to sell their assets before everyone else sees the trouble too and refuses to buy. This creates nervousness and an incentive to dump and run.

If all asset holders lost all faith in the future and wanted to sell, prices would fall to zero and the loans that the banks had secured on their value would never be repaid. The banks would become insolvent, unable to pay their depositors, so the huge amounts of money that were created when the asset-backed loans were approved would disappear, along with the deposits created by loans given out to finance activities in the real economy. In such a situation, the deposit guarantees given by governments would be of no avail. The sums they would need to borrow to honour their obligations would be beyond their capacity to secure, particularly as all banks everywhere would be in the same situation.

No-one wants such a situation so, since a decline in asset values could easily spiral downwards out of control, the only safe course is to keep the flow of money going into the stratosphere greater than that coming out. This keeps asset prices going up and removes any reason for investors to panic and sell. The problem is, however, that maintaining a positive flow of money into the stratosphere depends on having a growing economy. If the economy shrinks, or a greater proportion of income has to be spent on buying fuel and food because their prices go up, then less money can go up into the stratosphere in investments, rents and mortgage repayments. This causes asset values to fall and could possibly precipitate an investors’ stampede to get into cash.

In effect, the money circulating in the stratosphere is another currency — one that has only an indirect relationship with energy availability and which people use for saving rather than to buy and sell. Because there is a fixed one-to-one exchange rate between the atmospheric currency and the real-world one, the price of assets has to change for inflows and outflows to be kept in balance. As we’ve just discussed, the banking system will collapse if asset values fall too far, so governments are making heroic efforts to ensure that they do not. As 20% of the assets involved are owned by 1% of the population in Britain and Ireland (the figure is 38% in the US), this means that governments are cutting the services they deliver to all their citizens in order to keep the debt-money system going in an effort to preserve the wealth of the better-off.

In 2007, the burden imposed on the real economy by the need to support the stratospheric economy became too great. The richer countries that had been running balance of payments deficits on their current accounts found that paying the high energy and commodity prices, plus the interest on their increased amount of external debt, plus the transfer payments required on their internal ones, was just too much. The weakest borrowers — those with sub-prime mortgages in the US — found themselves unable to pay the higher energy charges and service their loans. And, since many of these loans had been securitised and sold off to banks around the world, their value as assets was called into question. Banks feared that payments that they were due from other banks might not come through as the other banks might suddenly be declared insolvent because of their losses on these doubtful assets. This made inter-bank payments difficult and the international money-transfer system almost broke down.

All asset values plunged in the panic that followed. Figures from the world’s stock markets show that the FTSE-100 lost 43% between October 2007 and February 2009 and that the Nikkei and the S&P 500 lost 56% and 52% respectively between May-June 2007 and their bottom, which was also in February 2009. All three indices have since recovered some of their previous value but this is only because investors feel that incomes are about to recover and increase the flow of funds into the stratosphere to support higher levels. They would be much less optimistic about future prices if they recognised that, in the medium term at least, a growing shortage of energy means that incomes are going to fall rather than rise.

This analysis of the origins of the current crisis leads to four thoughts that are relevant to planning the flight from Vesuvius:

  1. It is dangerous and destabilising for any country, firm or individual to borrow from abroad, even if they are borrowing their own national currency. Net capital movements between countries should be prohibited.
  2. An inflation is the best way of relieving the current debt crisis. An attempt to return the debt-GNP ratio to a supportable level by restricting lending would be a serious mistake. Instead, money incomes should be increased.
  3. A debt-based method of creating money cannot work if less and less energy is going to be available. New ways of issuing money will therefore need to be found.
  4. New ways of borrowing and financing are going to be required too, since, as incomes shrink because less energy can be used, fixed interest rates will impose an increasing burden.

We will discuss these in turn.

1. Borrowing from abroad

We have already discussed the problems that servicing foreign debt can create and, in view of these, it is hard to see why any country should ever borrow abroad at all. Foreign capital creates problems when it enters a country and further problems when it leaves. When it comes in, it boosts the country’s exchange rate, thus hurting firms producing for the home market by making imports cheaper than they would otherwise be. It also hurts exporters, reducing their overseas earnings when they convert them into their national currency. As a result, when the loan has to be repaid, the country is in a weaker position to do so than it was when it took the loan on — its imports are higher and its exports reduced. Foreign borrowing is so damaging that it has even been claimed that the Chinese policy of pegging its currency to the dollar at a rate which makes its exports very attractive and keeping that rate by lending a lot of the dollars it earns back was designed by military strategists to destroy America’s manufacturing base. [2] The strategists are said to have argued that no superpower can maintain its position without a strong industrial sector, so lending back the dollars China earned was a handy way to destroy the US ability to fight a major war.

For a country with its own currency, the alternative to borrowing abroad is to allow the value of its currency to float so that its exports and imports are always in balance and it never need worry about its competitiveness again. As eurozone countries no longer have this option, they have very few tools to keep exports and imports in balance. Indeed, it’s hard to know what they should do to deter foreign borrowing because, while the state may not borrow abroad itself, its private sector may be doing so. In Ireland, for example, the net indebtedness of Irish banks to the rest of the world jumped from 10% of GDP in 2003 to over 60% four years later, despite the fact that some of the state’s own borrowings were repaid during these years. All the state could have done to stop this borrowing would have been to restrict lending that was based on the overseas money. For example, it could have placed a limit on the proportion of its loans that a bank could make to the property sector, or stipulated that mortgages should not exceed, say, 90% of the purchase price and three times the borrower’s income. This would have dampened down the construction boom and limited the growth of incomes and thus import demand. But such indirect methods of control are not nearly as potent as allowing the market to achieve balance automatically. Their weakness is a very powerful argument for breaking up the eurozone.

Although one might accept that borrowing abroad for income purposes comes at the cost of undermining its domestic economy, it could be argued that capital inflows for use as capital will allow a country develop faster than would otherwise be the case. Let’s see if this argument stands up.

The danger with bringing capital into a country with its own currency is that part of it will become income in the ways we discussed and thus boost the exchange rate and undermine the domestic economy. So, if we restrict the capital inflow to the actual cost of the goods that the project will need to import, is that all right? Well, yes, it might be. It depends on the terms on which the capital is obtained, and whether the project will be able to earn (or save) the foreign exchange required to pay the investors. If the world economy shrinks as we expect, it is going to be harder to sell the product and its price may fall. This might mean that interest payments took a greater share of the project’s revenue than was expected, causing hardship for everyone else. So, as we will discuss later, the only safe approach is for the foreign investor to agree to take a fixed portion of the project’s foreign revenue, whatever that is, rather than a fixed sum of money based on the interest rate. This would ensure that the project never imposed a foreign exchange burden on the country as a whole. The foreign capital would be closer to share capital than a loan. This should be the only basis that any country should allow foreign capital in.

At present, however, so much foreign capital is moving around that its flow might need to be limited to prevent destabilising speculation. As Reinhart and Rogoff point out, “Periods of high international capital mobility have repeatedly produced international banking crises, not only famously as they did in the 1990s, but historically.” One solution to this, again for countries with their own currencies, is to have two exchange rates; one for capital flows, the other for current (i.e. trading) flows. This would mean that people could only move their capital out of a country if others wanted to move theirs in. Rapid, speculative flows would therefore be impossible. Ireland had this system when it was part of the Sterling Area after World War 2 until Britain abandoned it around 1979. It was known as the dollar premium. South Africa had a capital currency, “the financial rand,” which gave it financial stability throughout the apartheid period. It dropped it in 1995.

Keeping capital and current flows apart would greatly reduce the power of the financial sector. After they were divided, no-one would ever say as James Carville, President Clinton’s adviser, did about the bond markets in the early 1990s when he realised the power they had over the government, that they “can intimidate everybody.”

Of course, the threat to its power will mean that the financial sector opposes capital-flow currencies tooth and nail. Yet its power, and income, must be reduced, especially if incomes in other sectors of the economy are going fall. According to the OECD, the share of GDP taken by the financial sector (defined as “financial intermediation, real-estate, renting and business activities”) in the United States increased from 23% to 31% between 1990 to 2006. The increase in the UK was over 10% to about 32% and around 6% in both France and Germany.

The rise in the sector’s share of corporate profits was even more striking. In the United States, for example, it was around 10% in the early 1980s but peaked at 40% in 2007. Mentioning these figures, Már Gudmundsson, the deputy head of the Monetary and Economic Department of the Bank for International Settlements, told a conference in the US in 2008 that the financial sector needed to become smaller and less leveraged: “That is the only way the sector can be returned to soundness and profitability in the environment that is likely to prevail in the post-crisis period.” I would put it much more strongly. The British sector’s income is bigger than those of agriculture, mining, manufacturing, electricity generation, construction and transport put together, and the sector’s dominance in other economies is similar. It is a monstrous global parasite that needs to be cut down to size.

The financial tail wags the societal dog

Graph 5: The financial sector in five rich-country economies, the US, Japan, the UK, France and Germany, has been taking an increasing share of national income over the past twenty years, in part because of the increasing debt burden. The sector is now bigger in each country than all the productive sectors put together. Source OECD.

2. Allowing inflation to correct the debt-income imbalance

As the amount of energy in a litre of petrol is equivalent to three weeks’ hard manual work, having power at one’s disposal can make one much more productive. A country’s income is consequently largely determined by its direct and indirect energy use. So, whenever less energy is available, incomes fall and debt becomes harder to service unless an inflation is allowed to increase money incomes and reduce the real burden imposed by the debt.

This has been demonstrated by two real-world experiments. After OPEC’s first oil-supply restriction in 1973, the world’s central banks allowed the inflation created by the higher oil prices to go ahead. By reducing the burden of existing debt, this made room for the commercial banks to lend out the money that the oil producers were unable to spend. The US came out of the recession quickly and Britain did not have one at all. Developing countries did well too even though they were paying more for their oil, because the prices of their commodity-exports increased more rapidly than the rate of interest they were being charged on their external debts and, although they borrowed from abroad, their debt-export ratio stayed constant.

After the 1979 restriction, however, the story was different. This time, the central banks resolved to maintain the purchasing power of their monies in relation to energy and they did all they could to fight the inflation. In Britain, an ultra-tight fiscal and monetary policy was adopted. Interest rates were set at 17% and government spending cuts of £3.5bn were announced for the following year. The result was the “Winter of Discontent” with 29m working days lost through strikes, the largest annual total since the General Strike in 1926. In the US, the prime rate reached 20% in January 1981. Unemployment, which had dropped steadily from 1975 to 1979, began to rise sharply as the deflationary measures were put into effect.

The OPEC countries themselves moved from a small balance of payments deficit of $700 million in 1978 to a surplus of $100 billion in 1980. They put most of this money on deposit in US and British banks. But what were the banks to do with it, since none of their rich-country customers wished to borrow at the prevailing interest rates, especially as their domestic economies had been thrown into recession by the central banks’ policies? The answer was to lend it to the developing countries, since the loans made to these countries after 1973 had worked out well.

The result was the Third World Debt Crisis. In 1970, before it began, the 15 countries which it would affect most severely — Algeria, Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Bulgaria, Congo, Cote d’Ivoire, Ecuador, Mexico, Morocco, Nicaragua, Peru, Poland, Syria and Venezuela — had a manageable collective external public debt. It amounted to 9.8% of their collective GNP and took 12.4% of their export income to service. [3] By 1987, these same nations’ external public debt was 47.5% of their GNP and servicing it took 24.9% of their export earnings. This doubling had come about because they had borrowed abroad to avoid inflicting drastic spending cuts on their people like those made in the US and the UK. They could, of course, have avoided borrowing and tried to manage on their reduced overseas earnings but this would have forced them to devalue, which would have itself increased their foreign debt-to-GDP ratio. They really had very few options.

Just how deep the commodity-producing countries devaluations would have had to have been is indicated by the decline in net farm incomes in the US. In 1973, these reached a record high of $92.1 billion but by 1980 they had dropped back to $22.8 billion, largely because of a decline in overseas demand, and by 1983 they were only $8.2 billion. Not surprisingly in view of the high interest rates, many US farmers went bankrupt. In 1985, 62 agricultural banks failed, accounting for over half of the nation’s bank failures that year. The high interest rates were also a factor a few years later when 747 US mortgage lenders, the savings and loans or “thrifts” had to be bailed out. The cost was around $160 billion, of which about $125 billion was paid by the US government.

Money’s exchange rate with energy fell in both 1973 and 1979 because there was too much of it in circulation in relation to the amount of oil available. In 1973, the inflation removed the surplus money by requiring more of it to be used for every purchase. The results were generally satisfactory. In 1979, by contrast, an attempt was made to pull back the price of oil by jacking up interest rates to reduce the amount of money going into circulation and thus, over a period of years, bring down the “excessive” money stock. The higher rates caused immense hardship because they ignored the other side of the money=debt equation, the debt that was already there. So, by setting their faces against allowing money to be devalued in relation to energy, the central banks’ policies meant that a lot of the debt had to be written off. Their policy hurt them as well as everyone else. Yet the same policy is being used again today.

So which policy should be adopted instead to remove the current surplus stratospheric money? Incomes in the real economy need to be increased so that they can support current asset values in the stratosphere and, since there is insufficient energy to allow growth to increase them, inflation has to be used instead. Attempts to use 1979-type methods such as those being promoted by the Germans for use in the eurozone will only depress incomes, thus making the debt load heavier. A lot of the debt would then have to be written off, causing the banking system to implode. Even if this could be avoided, such a policy can never work because the money is being taken from the real economy rather than the stratospheric one.

The choice is therefore between allowing inflation to reduce the debt burden gradually, or trying to stop it and having the banking system collapse, overwhelmed by bad debts and slashed asset values. In such a situation, account holders’ money would not lose its value gradually. It could all disappear overnight.

The inflation we need cannot be generated with debt-based money as it was in 1973 because in today’s circumstances that would increase debts more rapidly than it raised incomes. As Graph 4 shows, each $100 borrowed in 2006-7 in the US only increased incomes by around $30 whereas in 1973, the return was higher and the level of debt the country was carrying in relation to its income was about half what it is today. The same applies to most other OECD countries; their public and private sectors are already struggling with too much debt and do not wish to take on more.

The solution is to have central banks create money out of nothing and to give it to their governments either to spend into use, or to pay off their debts, or give to their people to spend. In the eurozone, this would mean that the European Central Bank would give governments debt-free euros according to the size of their populations. The governments would decide what to do with these funds. If they were borrowing to make up a budget deficit — and all 16 of them were in mid-2010, the smallest deficit being Luxembourg’s at 4.2% — they would use part of the ECB money to stop having to borrow.

They would give the balance to their people on an equal-per-capita basis so that they could reduce their debts, or not incur new ones, because private indebtedness needs to be reduced too. If someone was not in debt, they would get their money anyway as compensation for the loss they were likely to suffer in the real value of their money-denominated savings. Without this, the scheme would be very unpopular. The ECB could issue new money in this way each quarter until the overall, public and private, debt in the eurozone had been brought sufficiently down for employment to be restored to a satisfactory level.

The former Irish Green Party senator, Deirdre de Burca, has improved on this idea. She points out that (1) we don’t want to restore the economy that has just crashed and (2) that politicians don’t like giving away money for nothing. Her suggestion is that the money being given to ordinary citizens should not just be lodged in their bank accounts but should be sent to them as special credits which could only be used either to pay off debt or, if all their debts were cleared, to be invested in projects linked to the achievement of an ultra-low-carbon Europe. These could range from improving the energy-efficiency of one’s house to investing in an offshore wind farm or a community district heating system.

Creating money to induce an inflation may seem rather odd to those who advocate buying gold because they fear that all the debt-based money that has been created recently by quantitative easing will prove inflationary by itself. What they have failed to recognise is that most of the money they are worried about is in the stratosphere and has very few ways of leaking down. It is in the accounts of financial institutions and provides the liquidity for their trading. The only way it can reach people who will actually spend it rather than investing it again is if it is given out as loans but, as we saw, that is not happening. Even paying it out to an institution’s staff as wages and bonuses won’t work too well as most are already spending as much as they can and would use any extra to buy more assets, thus keeping it stratospheric.

A common argument against using inflation to reduce debts is bound to be trotted out in response to this idea. It is that, if an inflation is expected, lenders simply increase their interest rates by the amount they expect their money to fall in value during the period of the loan, thus preventing the inflation reducing the debt burden. However, the argument assumes that new loans would still be needed to the same extent once the debt-free money creation process had started. I think that is incorrect. Less lending would be needed, the investors’ bargaining position would be very weak and interest rates should stay down. Incomes, on the other hand, would rise. As a result, if the debtors continued to devote the same proportion of their incomes to paying off any new or remaining loans, they would be free of debt much more quickly.

3. The end of debt-based money

Output in today’s economy gets a massive boost from the high level of energy use. If less and less energy is going to be available in future, the average amount each person will be able to produce will decline and real incomes will fall. These shrinking incomes will make debts progressively harder to repay, creating a reluctance both to lend and to borrow. For a few years into the energy decline, the money supply will contract as previous years’ debts are paid off more rapidly than new ones are taken on, destroying the money the old debts created when they were issued. This will make it increasingly difficult for businesses to trade and to pay employees. Firms will also have more problems paying taxes and servicing their debts. Bad debts and bankruptcies will abound and the money economy will break down.

Governments will try to head the breakdown off with the tool they used during the current credit crunch — producing money out of nothing by quantitative easing. So far, the QE money they have released, which could have been distributed debt-free, has been lent to the banks at very low interest rates in the hope that they will resume lending to the real economy. This is not happening on any scale because of the high degree of uncertainty — is there any part of that economy in which people can invest borrowed money and be sure of being able to pay it back?

Some better way of getting non-debt money into the real economy is going to have to be found. In designing such a system, the first question that needs to be asked is “Are governments the right people to create it?” The value of any currency, even those backed by gold or some other commodity, is created by its users. This is because I will only agree to accept money from you if I know that someone else will accept it from me. The more people who will accept that money and the wider range of goods and services they will provide in return, the more useful and acceptable it is. If a government and its agencies accept it, that increases its value a lot.

As the users give a money its value, it follows that it should be issued to them and the money system run on their behalf. The government would be an important user but the currency should not be run entirely in its interest, even though it will naturally claim to be acting on behalf of society, and thus the users, as a whole. Past experience with government-issued currencies is not encouraging because money-creation-and-spend has always seemed politically preferable to tax-and-spend and some spectacular inflations that have undermined a currency’s usefulness have been the result. At the very least, an independent currency authority would need to be set up to determine how much money a government should be allowed to create and spend into circulation from month to month and, in that case, the commission’s terms of reference could easily include a clause to the effect that it had to consider the interests of all the users in taking its decisions.

This raises two more design questions. The first is “Should the government benefit from all the seignorage, the gain that comes from putting additional money into circulation, or should it be shared on some basis amongst all the users?” and the second is “Should the new money circulate throughout the whole national territory or would it be better to have a number of regional systems?” I am agnostic about the seignorage gains. My answer depends on the circumstances. If the new money is being issued to run in parallel with an existing currency, giving some of the gains to reward users who have helped to develop the system by increasing their turnover could be an important tool during the set-up process. On the other hand, if the new money was being issued to replace a collapsed debt-based system, giving units to users on the basis of their previous debt-money turnover would just bolster the position of the better off. It would be better to allow the state to have all the new units to spend into use in a more socially targeted way.

A more definite answer can be given to the second question. Different parts of every country are going to fare quite differently as energy use declines. Some will be able to use their local energy resources to maintain a level of prosperity while others will find they have few energy sources of their own and that the cost of buying their energy in from outside leaves them impoverished. If both types of region are harnessed to the same money, the poorer ones will find themselves unable to devalue to improve their exports and lower their imports. Their poverty will persist, just as it has done in Eastern Germany where the problems created by the political decision to scrap the ostmark and deny the East Germans the flexibility they needed to align their economy with the western one has left scars to this day.

If regional currencies had been in operation in Britain in the 1980s when London boomed while the North of England’s economy suffered after the closure of its coal mines and most of its heavy industries, then the North-South gap which developed might have been prevented. The North of England pound could have been allowed to fall in value compared with the London one, saving many of the businesses that were forced to close. Similarly, had Ireland introduced regional currencies during the brief period it had monetary sovereignty, a Connacht punt would have created more business opportunities west of the Shannon if it had had a lower value than its Leinster counterpart.

Non-debt currencies should not therefore be planned on a national basis or, worse, a multinational one like the euro. The EU recognises 271 regions, each with a population of between 800,000 and 3 million, in its 27 member states. If all these had their own currency, the island of Ireland would have three and Britain 36, each of which could have a floating exchange rate with a common European reference currency and thus with each other. If it was thought desirable for the euro to continue so that it could act as a reference currency for all the regional ones, its independent currency authority could be the ECB. In this case, the euro would cease to be the single currency. It would simply be a shared one instead.

The advantages from the regional currencies would be huge:

  1. As each currency would be created by its users rather than having to be earned or borrowed in from outside, there should always be sufficient liquidity for a high level of trading to go on within that region. This would dilute the effects of monetary problems elsewhere.
  2. Regional trade would be favoured because the money required for it would be easier to obtain. A strong, integrated regional economy would develop, thus building the region’s resilience to shocks from outside.
  3. As the amount of regional trade grew, seignorage would provide the regional authority with additional spending power. Ideally, this would be used for capital projects.
  4. The debt levels in the region would be lower, giving it a lower cost structure, as much of the money it used would be created debt free.

In addition to the regional currencies, we can also expect user-created currencies to be set up more locally to provide a way for people to exchange their time, human energy, skills and other resources without having to earn their regional currency first. One of the best-known and most successful models is Ithaca Hours, a pioneering money system set up by Paul Glover in Ithaca, New York, in 1991 in response to the recession at that time. Ithaca Hours is mainly a non-debt currency since most of its paper money is given or earned into circulation but some small zero-interest business loans are also made. A committee controls the amount of money going into use. At present, new entrants pay $10 to join and have an advertisement appear in the system’s directory. They are also given two one-Hour notes – each Hour is normally accepted as being equivalent to $10 – and are paid more when they renew their membership each year as a reward for their continued support. The system has about 900 members and about 100,000 Hours in circulation, a far cry from the days when thousands of individuals and over 500 businesses participated. Its decline dates from Glover’s departure for Philadelphia in 2005, a move which cost the system its full-time development worker.

Hours has no mechanism for taking money out of use should the volume of trading fall, nor can it reward its most active members for helping to build the system up. It would have to track all transactions for that to be possible and that would require it to abandon its paper notes and go electronic. The result would be something very similar to the Liquidity Network system that Graham Barnes describes in the next article.

New variants of another type of user-created currency, the Local Exchange and Trading System (LETS) started by Michael Linton in the Comox Valley in British Columbia in the early 1990s, are likely to be launched. Hundreds of LETS were set up around the world because of the recession at that time but unfortunately, most of the start-ups collapsed after about two years. This was because of a defect in their design: they were based on debt but, unlike the present money system, had no mechanism for controlling the amount of debt members took on or for ensuring that debts were repaid within an agreed time. Any new LETS-type systems that emerge are likely to be web based and thus better able to control the debts their members take on. As these debts will be for very short periods, they should not be incompatible with a shrinking national economy.

Complementary currencies have been used to good effect in times of economic turmoil in the past. Some worked so well in the US in the 1930s that Professor Russell Sprague of Harvard University advised President Roosevelt to close them down because the American monetary system was being “democratized out of [the government's] hands.” The same thing happened to currencies spent into circulation by provincial governments in Argentina in 2001 when the peso got very scarce because a lot of money was being taken out of the country. These monies made up around 20% of the money supply at their peak and prevented a great deal of hardship but they were withdrawn in mid-2003 for two main reasons. One was pressure from the IMF, which felt that Argentina would be unable to control its money supply and hence its exchange rate and rate of inflation if the provinces continued to issue their own monies. The other, more powerful, reason was that the federal government felt that the currencies gave the provinces too much autonomy and might even lead to the break-up of the country.

4. New ways to borrow and finance

The regional monies mentioned above will not be backed by anything since a promise to pay something specific in exchange for them implies a debt. Moreover, if promises are given, someone has to stand over them and that means that whoever does so not only has to control the currency’s issue but also has to have the resources to make good the promise should that be required. In other words, the promiser would have to play the role that the banks currently perform with debt-based money. Such backed monies would not therefore spread financial power. Instead, they could lead to its concentration.

Even so, some future types of currency will be backed by promises. Some may promise to deliver real things, like kilowatt hours of electricity, just as the pound sterling and the US dollar were once backed by promises to deliver gold. Others may be bonds backed by entitlements to a share an income stream, rather than a share of profits, as Chris Cook describes in his article in this book. Both these types of money will be used for saving rather than buying and selling. People will buy them with their regional currency and either hold them until maturity if they are bonds, or sell them for regional money at whatever the exchange rate happens to be when they need to spend.

These savings currencies could work like this. Suppose a community wanted to set up an energy supply company (ESCo) to install and run a combined heat and power plant supplying hot water for central heating and electricity to its local area. The regional currency required to purchase the equipment could be raised by selling energy “bonds” which promise to pay the bearer the price of a specific number of kWh on the day they mature. For example, someone could buy a bond worth whatever the price of 10,000 kWh was when that bond matured in five years. The money to redeem that bond would come from the payments made by people buying energy from the plant in its fifth year. The ESCo would also offer other bonds with different maturity dates and, as they were gradually redeemed, those buying power from the ESCo would, in fact, be taking ownership of the ESCo themselves.

These energy bonds will probably be issued in large denominations for sale to purchasers both inside and outside the community and will not circulate as money. However, once the ESCo is supplying power, the managing committee could turn it into a bank. It could issue notes for, say, 50 and 100 kWh which locals could use for buying and selling, secure in the knowledge that the note had real value as it could always be used to pay their energy bills. Then, once its notes had gained acceptance, the ESCo could open accounts for people so that the full range of money-moving services was available to those using the energy-backed units. An ESCo would be unlikely to do this, though, if people were happy with the way their regional currency was being run. Only if the regional unit was rapidly losing its value in energy terms would its users migrate to one which was not.

Conclusion

Up to now, those who allocated a society’s money supply by determining who could borrow, for what and how much determined what got done. In the future, that role will pass to those who supply its energy. Only this group will have, quite literally, the power to do anything. Money once bought energy. Now energy, or at least an entitlement to it, will actually be money and energy firms may become the new banks in the way I outlined. This makes it particularly important that communities develop their own energy supplies, and that if banks issuing energy-backed money do develop, they are community owned.

As energy gets scarcer, its cost in terms of the length of time we have to work to buy a kilowatt-hour, or its equivalent, is going to increase. Looked at the other way round, energy is cheaper today than it is ever likely to be again in terms of what we have to give up to get it. We must therefore ensure that, in our communities and elsewhere, the energy-intensive projects required to provide the essentials of life in an energy-scarce world are carried out now. If they are not, their real cost will go up and they may never be done.

Working examples of both backed and unbacked forms of modern regional and community monies are needed urgently. Until there is at least one example of a non-debt currency other than gold working well somewhere in the world, governments will cling to the hope that increasingly unstable national and multinational debt-based currencies will retain their value and their efforts to ensure that they do will blight millions of lives.

Moreover, without equitable, locally and regionally controllable monetary alternatives to provide flexibility, the inevitable transition to a lower-energy economy will be extraordinarily painful for thousands of ordinary communities, and millions of ordinary people. Indeed, their transitions will almost certainly come about as a result of a chaotic collapse rather than a managed descent and the levels of energy use that they are able to sustain afterwards will be greatly reduced. Their output will therefore be low and may be insufficient to allow everyone to survive. A total reconstruction of our money-issuing and financing systems is therefore a sine qua non if we are to escape Vesuvius’ flames.

Endnotes:

  1. Petrodollar Warfare: Oil, Iraq and the Future of the Dollar, William R. Clark, New Society Publishers, British Columbia, 2005. p31. See http://books.google.com
  2. Qiao Liang and Wang Xiangsui, both colonels in the Chinese army, wrote a book, Unrestricted Warfare, which appeared on the Internet in English 1999 about strategies China could use to defeat a technologically superior opponent such as the United States through a variety of means including currency manipulation. Extracts from the book can be found at http://www.cryptome.org/cuw.htm
  3. Debt Crisis in the Third World, by Yanhui Zhang, 2003.
    See http://www.grin.com/e-book/39036/debt-crisis-in-the-third-world

Featured image: Stone money of Uap, Western Caroline Islands Source: Wikimedia Commons

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3 Comments

  1. Thomas Greco
    3 years ago

    In his FEASTA article, Richard Douthwaite says,
    “Money has no value unless it can be exchanged for goods and services but these cannot be supplied without the use of some form of energy. Consequently, if less energy is available in future, the existing stock of money can either lose its value gradually through inflation or, if inflation is resisted, be drastically reduced by the collapse of the banking system that created it. Many over-indebted countries face this choice at present — they cannot preserve both their banking systems and their currency’s value. To prevent this conflict in future, money needs to be issued in new, non-debt ways.”

    Taking his premise as given, he is entirely correct.
    Which choice are you betting on, inflation or resistance to inflation?

    Observing government actions over the past 3 years, we see both tremendous currency inflation, which eventually causes price inflation, and attempts to hold down prices by starving the productive sector for credit.
    The consequent business failures and unemployment resulting from the latter have managed to forestall price increases in most consumer goods, except for the necessities of food and energy and some basic commodities.

    Not much of the accumulated debt has been written off; mostly it has been taken over by governments in their attempts to keep the banking system alive.
    Thus, indebtedness that the private sector incurred during the bubble phase, which turned out to be unbearable, has been put upon the shoulders of the citizens in the form of runaway increases in government debt. The power elite, in my opinion, will try to the last gasp to preserve the usury based, debt-money, monopoly banking system which is the source of their power. I expect some very extreme measures like bank closures, revaluation of currencies, drastic cuts in social programs. Eventually, most of the debts must be written-off, but they will try to preserve the indebtedness of people and the productive sector, keeping the slaves in bondage.

    What will it take to stir the populace to throw off their chains?

    Back to the premise: goods and services … cannot be supplied without the use of some form of energy.
    True enough, but that energy need not be from fossil fuels. There is an abundance of human energy, plenty enough to supply our basic needs and a dignified life for all, but not enough to continue the enormous waste that we are accustomed to–wars, planned obsolescence, short-term business planning, etc., all caused by the growth imperative built into the debt-money system.

    Reply

  2. umbrarchist
    3 years ago

    The economics profession has a problem with what it does and does not measure and report.

    Cars wear out. That is PHYSICS. It makes no difference whether the car is a Capital good or a Consumer good. But as far as our economists are concerned ONLY CAPITAL GOODS DEPRECIATE.

    They hardly ever talk about the Net Domestic Product. We are running a world of 7 billion people on defective algebra. We are supposed to believe that no economists have noticed this in 60 years?.

    http://www.toxicdrums.com/economic-wargames-by-dal-timgar.html

    Reply

  3. John W
    3 years ago

    Economics as a think tool has been captured with corporate funding of universities.

    The books do not have a ledger for natural resources, damage to the bioshere and future needs of even a reduced population.

    The wealth of human condition is completely absent ans unaccounted for.

    The books are cooked !

    The tool is useless !

    Reply

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