Public lecture: Changing our Monetary System. Why and How | Bernard Lietaer | School of Business and Economics

What is money? And how successful is it in solving society’s ills and meeting its needs?

Currency expert Bernard Lietaer states that the fundamental problem with our present-day monetary system is that it is not sufficiently diverse. It dams and bottlenecks our creative energies, and keeps us trapped in a world of scarcity and suffering. But we actually have the capacity to create a very different reality by enabling our energies to move more freely where they are most needed, including towards cleaning up our environment, building adequate housing and providing good quality healthcare, etc.

Prof. Lietaer will show that we need an upgrade of our monetary systems as a systemic solution to our global economic, financial and sustainability crisis. He will show that we need the circulation of different types of currencies for different types of purposes.

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A World in Balance? | Bernard Lietaer | 2003

The theme of this issue of Reflections – “the feminine approach to leadership” – will be addressed in this paper through the question: what would be different in a society in which the feminine was really honored? Honoring the feminine encompasses not only equal rights to women, but also runs a lot broader and deeper. Indeed, it translates into an entirely different worldview, one where an equal balance is achieved between the masculine and the feminine.

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TOWARDS A SUSTAINABLE WORLD | Bernard Lietaer | Delta Institute – Dieter Legat

The “Law of the Sustainability of Living Systems”, developed with other experts, explains and specifies the principles of sustainability: It says that living systems are only sustainable if they achieve a balance between productivity and elasticity. Balance, therefore, between short-term benefits of long-term existence. Just like that of Yin and Yang – not an “either – or”. We violate this law criminally. We have driven most living systems out of balance, making them non-sustainable.. Mono-cultures of all kinds, for example, emphasize short-term benefits and are not even sustainable in the short term without massive additional costs, as Lietaer shows with the example of forests and today’s monetary system. The book calls on readers to ensure that this law of sustainability is recognized and complied with. Both as individuals and as leaders in business and politics, readers are challenged to balance the short-sighted overvaluation of rapid return with the preservation of resilience.

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Full employment can be achieved by implementing practical methods already applied in countries such as Switzerland, Uruguay and Brazil. This two-hour seminar will explore the role of complementary currencies and other monetary innovations that can be applied to generate employment at the local and national level by governments and NGOs. Bernard Lietaer is a Fellow of the Academy, Research Fellow at UC Berkeley and financial consultant with more than 25 years experience working on innovations in money systems. He has served as co-designer of the convergence mechanism that created the Euro, President of Belgium’s Electronic Payments System, general manager and currency trader for the world’s most successful currency fund. He is the author of 14 books, including Future of Money, translated in 18 languages. Bernard Lietaer bio

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The Future of Money | Chapters 9-10-Epilogue and Prelude | Bernard Lietaer (1999)

So far, we have remained within a fundamental premise implicitly built into economic thinking: that the economy is a closed system where monetary exchanges determine what is going on. In this chapter, we will start having a peek “outside of the box.”

My basic premise is that no single metaphor can provide us with a full picture for the possibilities offered by revisiting our unconscious assumptions about money. Multiplying the perspectives through different metaphors should therefore help to dispel the illusion that any one of them describes the real world.

Nine Metaphors

Each metaphor gives only an insight from one particular angle. It is a bit as if someone tried to make an inventory of the Louvre Museum by looking through key holes. The more keyholes we can look through, the better the chance to grasp the real picture, although we should never have the illusion that we really have figured it all out. The view from the keyhole of traditional economics will be complemented by eight additional metaphors which each provide an interesting insight, and together allow us to better map the terrain. Through this diversity of viewpoints, I also hope to dispel the notion that any one of them fully describes reality as it is.

Here are nine metaphors:

  1. Traditional Economics Viewpoint
  2. Alternative Economics Viewpoint
  3. Biological Metaphor
  4. The Brain Metaphor
  5. Mythological Viewpoint
  6. A Western Philosophical Viewpoint
  7. A Humanistic Viewpoint
  8. A Taoist Viewpoint
  9. A Whole Systems Viewpoint

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The Future of Money | Chapters 7-8 | Bernard Lietaer (1999)

One last time, we will play our game of “tell me what your objectives are, and we can design a currency that supports it.” This chapter deals with one last “money question”; i.e. “how can financial interests become compatible with long-term sustainability?” Another way to ask the same question: is a win-win approach possible for finance, business and society?

This issue may be the most important because even the survival of our own and many other species is at stake. As prominent French monetary theorist Jacques Rueff claimed “Money will decide the fate of mankind.”[note]Title of Introduction of Rueff, Jacques The Age of Inflation translation by A. H. Meeus and F.G. Clarke (Chicago: Henry Regnery Co., 1964)[/note] Will we have to see the last fish die, or the last rainforest cut down, before we realize that we will not be able to eat money?

It is presented in this late chapter because — in contrast with the new currency designs presented in the previous chapters — this proposal breaks new ground and has therefore no contemporary case to demonstrate it.

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The Future of Money | Chapter 6 | Bernard Lietaer (1999)

This chapter addresses another “money question” of our Time Compacting Machine; the one relating to the Age Wave; i.e. “how will society provide the elderly with the money to match their longevity?” (see sidebar on US Congress’ own retirement plan)

But it also goes beyond that specific topic by tackling the broader issue of community breakdown. Problems in elderly and child care, education, reduction of criminality, and improvement of the general quality of life are all symptoms of the same phenomenon of community crises.

Community breakdown has become a universal pattern all over the modern world. Although it is usually not perceived that this trend relates to money, this chapter will show that both the cause of the problem and its solution can be found in money systems.

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The Future of Money | Part Two – Chapter 5 | Bernard Lietaer (1999)

Chapter by Chapter Outline

Throughout Part Two we will play a game: let us define an objective and design a new currency that will promote it.

For instance, if we want to reduce joblessness without inflation we will see that well over a thousand communities — particularly in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Brazil, and Northern Europe — have already started using their own complementary currency with significant results (chapters 5: Work-Enabling Currencies).

Similarly, a growing number of grass-root initiatives are tackling the sense of loss of community occurring worldwide by introducing cooperation-inducing community currencies. (Chapter 6: Community Currencies).

Various practical issues involved in setting up such currency systems are analyzed, such as their legality, their tax implications, and their impact on inflation from a Central Bank regulatory perspective. (Chapter 7)

If we want to reconcile the conflict between ecological sustainability and economic growth, a new kind of global currency could muster the massive resources of the multinational corporations to get us there. (Chapter 8: A Global Reference Currency – Making Money Sustainable)

This multiplication of different currencies for different purposes does not have to create chaos. In fact, all the pieces of the new money puzzle can fit nicely together if we just look at the broader context (Chapter 9: A Broader View).

The whole even constitutes a coherent skeleton around which Sustainable Abundance can be built. (Chapter 10: Sustainable Abundance).

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The Future of Money | Chapter 4 | Bernard Lietaer (1999)

This chapter explores future possibilities through scenarios, each of which is targeted for roughly one generation in the future, around the year 2020.

The “Official Future” is a simple extrapolation of what has become familiar over the past couple of decades. You will see why such a scenario has zero probability of occurring. Four more plausible scenarios follow this , each highlighting the implications for shaping our future societies of one of the changes currently possible in our money system. These four scenarios are: The Corporate Millennium, Careful Communities, Hell on Earth, and Sustainable Abundance. First, a cameo story captures the essence of the lifestyle for each scenario. Each time the evidence is provided that grounds the plausibility of such an outcome, in graphic form whenever possible.

In the conclusion, the four scenarios are placed in a broader perspective, and the driving forces that have shaped them are identified.

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The Future of Money | Chapter 2 – Chapter 3 | Bernard Lietaer (1999)

“Mom, could I have some money to go buy some candy at the store?” For most of us, our first experience of money is as a necessary object in the ritual of getting the things we want from stores. We accept it with the pragmatism of an innocent child, unaware of the mystery behind the transaction.

As we mature, we become conversant in many adult mysteries. We learn where babies come from, and participate in that process. We learn that all living things eventually die, and witness the death of a relative, friend, or perhaps a pet. We learn how our government works, and who makes the rules by which we are required to live.

And yet, one of the central mysteries of our lives as social beings – money – remains completely obscure to virtually everyone. Most people probably suspect that the answer to the nature of money comes from the study of economics or monetary theory, and we all know these fields are boring – full of equations and devoid of emotional juice.

Ironically, money itself is a very emotionally juicy topic. Throwing money on the ground in a public place gets as much attention as taking off our clothes. Those who work in financial markets recognize that strong emotions rule over most money issues: emotions that are ubiquitous, violent, volatile and overwhelmingly powerful. Strangely, neither economics nor monetary theories consider the emotional nature of money. In fact, in order to study money “scientifically,” they deliberately suppress its basically emotional nature. What is going on here?

The creation of money is largely invisible to the untrained eye, and seems almost miraculous. Most people, when they find out where money really comes from, are as disbelieving as some children when they first find out where babies come from. “How could this possibly be true?” they wonder.

Economics textbooks deal with the question of what money does, but not with what money is. By asking the deceptively simple question “What is money?” we are put in touch with money’s age-old magic. This chapter will clarify the mystery by showing that money is not a thing, but an agreement – usually an unconscious one.

In contemporary society, we not only agree to participate in the existing money system – unconsciously – but we also bestow extraordinary power on that system. Here, the nature of that power will be explored, as well as the four key features of modern money that we usually take for granted. For instance, national currencies make economic interaction with our fellow citizens more desirable than with “foreigners,” thereby cultivating national consciousness. Less obvious is the mechanism of the interest, which will be shown to foster competition among users of the currency.

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