* Book: New Currency: How Money Changes the World As We Know It. By Jordan Bruce MacLeod. Integral Publishers, 2009
"New Currency is an exploration of money’s untapped power to change the world. In the midst of a devastating global financial crisis, out of control government spending and grave problems such as terrorism, energy security and climate change, people all over the planet are waking up to the need for profound shifts in the way we respond to these challenges.
In the first half of the book, MacLeod establishes money as the primary leverage point for systemic transformation. He discusses the emergence of a new way of designing money that successfully reversed a town's 35% unemployment rate to full employment during the Great Depression. MacLeod argues that even while successful and endorsed by eminent economists Irving Fisher and John Maynard Keynes this financial innovation was mostly forgotten, largely because society did not have the shared context to make sense of it and understand its transformative potential. We therefore missed its enormous power to change the world.
With the global financial crisis and emergence of greater understanding of quantum reality, consciousness, and digital technologies, MacLeod argues that humanity is now ready to take a second look at this marked economic innovation. He believes that we are on the verge of making a momentous leap in social dynamics and at the heart of this shift is changing the way we see and hold money.
Rather than seeing money as a fixed object, MacLeod takes us on a journey throughout human history to demonstrate how human consciousness has evolved over time. At each stage of development, the economic tools that were available varied markedly. Yet, with the emergence of new ways of seeing the world, human societies have developed profound breakthroughs in how they use money which have in turn reconfigured economic and social order and grounded deeper values and meaning into the heart of a society.
By understanding the evolving relationship between human values and money, we come to understand that our economic problems are wholly in our power to confront and transcend. MacLeod argues that while our monetary and economic systems have been unprecedented in their power to generate wealth and innovation they are also directly correlated to a destructive strand of cultural narcissism. This in turn leads to real economic development on the one hand but manifestations of exploitation, myopic decision making, environmental degradation and selfishly burdening future generations with our debt and resource consumption on the other.
Today, we stand at a critical point in world history where the choices we make will have profound implications for the future of humanity and the well-being of the planet. In the second half of the book MacLeod concludes that neither socialism nor laissez-faire approaches are powerful enough to address the challenges of the 21st century. MacLeod presents a clear and compelling vision for an economy and global society that is simultaneously more free, inclusive and resilient than anything we have ever known. It is only through monetary innovation and reconfiguring the dynamics of the marketplace, he argues, that we will be able to create the conditions to resolve the most complex problems in human history." (http://www.wikisummaries.org/New_Currency:_How_Money_Changes_the_World_As_We_Know_It)
Excerpts from an interview by the Integral Leadership Review:
JM: New Currency establishes money as a leverage point for economic and broader social transformation. It examines the historical evolution of money and economic systems and their interdependent co-emergence with novel subjective stages of development. The evolution of our values, or of what Robert Kegan calls subject-object relations, is constantly altering our capacity to relate with the external world. And at the heart of this relationship—at least for civilized society—is our relationship with money. So what's key to understand here is that how we hold money sets in motion the properties and propensities of our whole economic system and what's possible in the broader social system. We are not in some final end state in monetary theory that is perfectly objective and scientific in nature. There is an indispensable subjective dynamic that means money is fully in our power to change in accordance with our evolving values, life conditions and aspirations. But I cannot emphasize enough that this change is not at all arbitrary.
ILR: Why is that so important?
JM: Because each economic stage transcends and includes what preceded it. Therefore, the currencies we create must reflect not only our values, but provide very tangible solutions to preceding problems. It is very tempting to take one part of the problem—say inflation or arbitrary, centralized power--we're facing and design a currency that addresses that specific part. Yet, unless the monetary design addresses the whole of our problems and opportunities, it is necessarily going to lead to pre/trans fallacies. Or to say it another way, we'll solve one problem only to suffer unintended consequences that make the overall problem worse!
So, as we take into account the evolutionary patterns of money and economic systems, we notice a couple of critical trends. First, there's the dematerialization of money—which is well documented. What this means is that we've gone from our first currencies being cows (yes cows!) and found objects such as shells, stones and so on to increasingly abstract currencies such as coins and paper money and now to digital currencies.
The second trend is the dematerialization of value. The earliest currencies were the most dense, with cows being the most obvious example and then later we see the emergence of coins made out of precious metal. Over time, we see a clear process of money increasingly relying less on material stuff (such as gold) to guarantee its value and more on its function as a medium of exchange to ensure its value. These processes have been what have enabled money to become increasingly relevant, standardized and accessible to an increasing depth and span of humanity over time. Money, imperfections notwithstanding, has evolved to become compatible with more value systems from more parts of the world than at any point in human history. And there is no question that this has helped align international interests and co-operation to an unprecedented degree, as we've seen with the global response to the financial crisis and emergence of the G20. Money is increasingly becoming a universal language.
Today, it is the very fact that a dollar is needed to buy commodities that primarily ensures its value stays in tact. So it is this dematerialization of form and value that has enabled it to function, albeit imperfectly, as a global reserve currency for most of humanity.
ILR: ... You speak of the connection between narcissism and money?
JM: Yes. The book shows this connection and how money is essentially designed to represent an idealized self, fundamentally separated from nature. This manifests in the economic sphere as a devaluing of nature and an absence of limits on economic activity and production. Quite literally, I propose that the antidote for cultural narcissism is realizing humility in our collective relationships with money and economic processes. There are very specific tools that make this possible and they are discussed in detail.
ILR: How do you think these tools might gain currency in our contentious societies?
JM: That's a great question. I think they're only likely to be valued when we collectively realize that this economic system is failing on so many levels—despite the enormous and unprecedented contributions it has made. Money and finance happens to be where we collectively have the most ego-investment and resistance to change so I don't see it happening any other way. Yet, we see already on Main Street that people are actively looking for alternatives to leaving their money with those they perceive as having acted irresponsibly. As the system fails to solve problems and meet our needs, there's no doubt that we'll all have an opportunity to put our money where our mouth is, if you will. There will be a tremendous need to restore trust and to get money flowing again into the hands of entrepreneurs and small businesses and we now have the tools at hand capable of making this happen." (http://www.integralleadershipreview.com/archives/2010-03/2010-03-article-macleod.php)
Commentary and questions to the author by Suresh Fernando:
"I have yet to read any analysis of money that established a link with subjective experience. I find this to be extremely persuasive. As you will see below, you managed to stimulate my philosophical side... there are a few comments and questions...
Moving Forward: The challenge will obviously be to figure out how to get this idea out in a manner that will allow it to slowly garner acceptance. You can reasonably assume that the establishment will be resistant to change for the same reasons that the success stories you reference met resistance.
Fortunately the world has changed dramatically in the last 50 years and the communications infrastructure and associated P2P networks allow us to roll out this sort of system independently within closed communities that bridge boundaries.
I see two possible ways that you might want to approach rolling this out:
Localized Regional Community with Local Backing: If you decided to go this route, would be pursuing a path similar to the one that was pursued in the past where a local currency is created and the value is determined by its exchange capacity to some established existing currency.
This might be equivalent to Ithaca Dollars with a demurrage 'stamp'.The advantage of this model is that the value of the currency is established.
P2P Distributed Community/Ecosystem with Independent Currency: Another option is to identify an set of people and organizations from anywhere in the world that believe, in principle, with your program and create a new currency that operates within this group.
The problem with this model is figuring out how to establish value for the currency. Will peoples' commitment to the underlying principles be sufficient to take, as compensation, currency that cannot directly be used to pay the mortgage?
The OK Pooled Fund Ecosystem: I haven't thought about this much but I would love to try to think this through with you.
In a perfect world, it would be great to create an ecosystem that included funders, socially beneficial projects, the support infrastructure etc. and to have a monetary system that had a high velocity of capital that literally drove capital into worthy projects!
Obviously to get this going you'd have to find very progressive investors that would be willing to experiment with this model. Is it possible to do so?
Well, the fact of the matter is that philanthropic investors; the Gates Foundation etc. all receive -100% return on their investments since they are in the form of donations or grants. So what we have is literally billions of dollars of capital that that expects no financial return but is, in principle, seeking to deploy capital to generate social returns.
What if we were able to demonstrate to very large philanthropic institutions the following:
1. Increasing the velocity of money in an ecosystem of mutually interdependent projects and service infrastructure will result in innovation and success.
2. We can provide some return that is better than -100%. This is obviously the case!
We might then be able to raise capital and to prove out your model.
Once we have proven that the model works in a particular ecosystem, it can be rolled out to other ecosystems.
Clearly we roll out the same currency across ecosystems, thereby connecting the ecosystems as we move forward.
Let me know what you think... I do have a few specific questions and comments...
A Few Questions/Comments
Demurrage: The case studies that you cite are quite remarkable. Sadly I am not surprised that this mechanism has been suppressed. From a theoretical perspective I can certainly see how demurrage will increase the velocity of the money supply and hence mitigate against the possibility of hoarding thereby minimizing the likelihood of the creating conditions where capital is scarce.
What I am unclear on is the relationship between materialism and the velocity of capital. It seems to me that accelerating trade will simply stimulate our excessively acquisitive nature since you are, quite simply, forced to purchase things.
I suppose that if what one purchases are investments then the picture is slightly different...
Relativism: I am not totally clear on the importance of your arguments against relativism. Clearly we live in 'relativistic world', but our relativism does not extend to all domains of inquiry. For example, science is one domain where we have well defined notion of truth and fact that, for the most part (idiotic climate debunkers notwithstanding!) are universally accepted.
The domain where relativism has most force in the modern context is the religious domain as the source of moral imperative. This sort of ethical relativism is fully compatible with a belief in science and, therefore, a belief in the correctness of certain processes.
Hence I don't think its necessary to dismiss relativism outright in order to make the case that a particular monetary system (demurrage) is the 'correct' one.
Identity/Difference: I fully agree with the notion that the perception of difference or the me/other distinction is at the heart of what divides us and is what provides the underlying basis for conflict. I actually believe that this is a contingent fact that is a function of the way societies have evolved and could have been different. The rudiments of my argument can be found at: http://sureshfernando.wordpress.com/2008/08/27/on-massive-social-change-msc/
When I have time, and better understand the details, I'll develop this line of analysis with more precision. In short, I don't believe that conflict (the extension of the Death Imperative) is a necessary feature of human existence as I believe that Conflict flows from Perceptions of Difference which is a contingent fact.
You cite Freud's view that avoiding death and destruction will require the 'expansion' of identity. I am not familiar with Freud's work on this topic but my own sense is that what we need is a 'convergence' of identity; the realization that what is common between us far transcends what is different and that the differences, are strictly contingent and therefore can, in principle, be re-engineered.
The Role of Money In Group Identity Formation: I have to agree that having a common currency will have a positive impact on, and is a necessary condition for, creating a global village. It is, however, only one of many things that will be necessary - obviously.
The Normative Nature of Modern Economic Theory: There is absolutely no question that the fact the only lens through which 'progress' is measured is leading us to Armageddon. That human welfare is equated with unfettered economic growth is a fallacious assumption is directly identified in this presentation.
Two Ways To Mitigate the Problem: Although I am very ambitious in terms of my longer term objectives, I believe that here are two ways that one can approach the problem. The first is the way that you are proposing, which is to introduce a completely new global currency mechanism.
The other mechanism is to think about ways to redeploy existing capital in a manner where its own growth is not the sole criterion for investment; the social venture approach, if you will. Maybe this is closer to what Gates was suggesting.
Fundamentally, you're likely right that the very notion of financial capital needs to be redefined, but another way to think about this is from the perspective that the problem lies with the capital allocation model and that this can be mitigated within the existing framework.
Admittedly this might be a stop-gap measure as it does not change the systemic problems that you identify, which I am sure you will argue are at the root of the existing capital allocation model.
Doing some work to change the capital allocation model may, however, serve to modify our collective consciousness and make possible the conditions that can bring about the 'leverage point', 'tipping point' etc.
On The Plasticity of Consciousness and the Development of a Systemic Global Architecture That Works for All: I wish I were as optimistic as Graves that there are various stages and that, as we mature, we move towards higher, more inclusive/global levels of consciousness. This may be true but, I think, is still an open empirical question.
That said, I think that the amazing plasticity of the brain and its ability to respond to changing circumstances; trauma etc. is a well documented fact. If we assume that consciousness is supervenient on the physical structure of the brain there is no reason to assume that new forms of consciousness (potentially never heretofore realized), are possible.
This leaves open, therefore, the possibility for a systemic architecture that recognizes, accepts and values different perspectives and organizes them into a truly integrated global framework.
There is no reason to assume that it necessary follows that if we have different value systems and cultural paradigms that there must be conflict between those paradigms.
Given this possibility, it is our responsibility and obligation to try to bring this about.
On Flow as A Necessary Condition for Globalization: Czikszentmihalyi's work on Flow, interestingly, has also influenced me substantially. That said, I am not totally clear on the connection you are making between his work, which is applied to the qualities of subjective experience and anomie etc with respect to our global consciousness.
The way that I interpret this is that our changing global consciousness is inconsistent with the conditions necessary for Flow. This would arise from the changing structure of phenomenal consciousness. For example, the proportion of our conscious experience that is now connected to things that are far removed and over which we have no direct influence etc.
I am not sure if this is the correct interpretation, but I am exploring this notion through an examination of the changing nature of the structure of space. Connectivity changes the composition of space, so to speak.
The underlying philosophical architecture that I am evolving can be found here. The basic strategy will be to establish a relationship between the structure of consciousness and the structure of space; establish a 'mutual interdependence'. One this is established a view of Virtual Space can be evolved.
You might notice that I am a neo-Kantian/transcendental idealist when it comes to epistemological issues.
On Reason: Your analysis of the role reason plays in bringing about our current dilemmas is interesting and accurate, in my view. The post enlightenment reificiation of Reason has certainly been formative in creating the modern context. I'd agree that it has been a double edged sword. It rescued us from dogma and gave us a notion of Truth (science) that I can live with. Something, however, has been lost as we have been disconnected from other aspects of our nature.
That said, it is reason that will rescue us from our current plight since it is reason that differentiates us from the animals. Objectification might be causally a component of our current condition, but it is also our ability to view our circumstances from a distance that gives rise to the possibility of change.
Interest Rates, Wealth Distribution and Future Value: This is a great point! I'd never actually seen the argument outlining how the dynamics of interest rates serve to concentrate capital in the hands of a few.." (email, December 2009)