A small elaboration on the role of money in this world seems at its place after I studied Strohalm's (a Dutch organization for sustainable living) latest book "Voor hetzelfde geld" (untranslatable term, but it means something like "for the same money").
One valuable remark in this book is from Michael Linton, the founder of the first LETSystem in Comox valley, Canada. He points out that money currently lacks the property of a simple measurement unit, like centimeters. He says that there is never a lack in centimeters when we want to measure some distance. For money, however, there surely is a lack of money when we want to "measure" or value some services in our society. Examples: health-care, government budgets, etc. On the other hand, the talents and energy of people may be available for such services, but there is no money to pay for them. How ironic is this reversal of order of abstraction!
Remember, I pointed out in my previous "Highlights of Vitvan" article that it is the talents of people what economy should be all about, not the availability of money. Indeed, in LETSystems money (value) is created when one performs a service or sells some good. There can't be a shortage of money in such systems, because money is only a symbol or just a unit of measurement for services performed, just as it should be in my opinion.
There is no point in accumulating money in LETSystems, since you don't get interest on it and in fact the whole idea is about getting the talents of people to work, i.e. let the local money (= transactions = human talents at work) flow freely. So, you have to spend what you've earned to make the system function, but you don't have to worry for being or becoming a debtor (you don't pay interest).
It is staggering to my mind that so few economists seem to understand this vital point of down-to-earth economics. Some people designate the current economists as "idiot savants", probably able to solve a couple of differential econometric equations, but totally lacking a helicopter-view.
Money has acquired the property of being a unit of wealth, which can be accumulated, either by the working of the interest-mechanism or by speculation.
In some way the properties of being a (currently badly functioning) measurement unit and that of being a unit of wealth have become mixed up. These two different functions are not sharply discriminated between. The latter function (measurement of wealth) is built to a large degree on illusionary concepts, notable that of value of money in itself, which concept cannot stand the test of history. How often has the stock-market crashed? How often has the soap-bubble of speculation burst? Every decade or so, this happens some where in this world and very few seem to have learned the lesson: money is only a symbol, build on trust and confidence, but has no value (or should have no value) apart from measuring services rendered, goods sold, etc. Of course, as long as people belief that all is well, and especially don't try to cash the fictitious profits en masse, things may go on for quite a while, until the next major crash..
Another point that stroke me when I studied the above mentioned book has been the predatory role of banks especially towards third-world countries. This has resulted in a massive sucking of resources from these poor countries by the western world.
This parasitic behaviour has evolved to the extent that the IMF has urged poor countries to utilize their best farming land for growing export crops in order to be able to pay at least a part of their ever-growing debts (by reason of the high interest rates).
As a consequence many people have died from starvation since they were left with the poorest pieces of land to grow crops for their own use. A Brazilian minister of government once remarked in this respect that world-war three has long begun, but it is a silent war, hardly noticed by the well-fed first-world citizens.
Truely disgusting! Where are the critical journalists, television-reporters, etc.?
These practices have at least been going on since the seventies of the former century and are rarely, if ever, reported on television. Newspapers do a little better in this respect. I remember reading an interview with Wouter van Dieren, a Dutch member of the "Club of Rome", who remarked that someone must have put something in the water because everybody seems to be firmly asleep regarding issues of sustainable living and fair economic trade.
Indeed, a French philosopher wrote about the "failure of the intellectual elite" regarding their refusal or ignoring to take a leading role in shaping the public opinion concerning the really important issues that face current society, like the necessity of establishing a sustainable economy, but also concerning mentality and morality. I agree with him, that very few of this so-called elite feel much responsibility in bringing these issues to the forum of public discussion.
I think it is up to the common (wo)man to take his/her fate into his/her own hand as much as possible. Raising self-awareness and changing the structures bottom-up can go hand in hand and I think grass-roots movements will play an increasingly important role in this respect. 'Mainstream ' people will eventually and gradually absorb some of the fresh ideas from these movements.
But be prepared for a lot of disinformation! Some people are warning us that the next century will be one of intense information warfare and I'm inclined to agree with their assessment. There are a lot of vested interests at stake, so stay on the alert and don't believe much from what these people tell you through the so-called independent media. In reality there can be hardly question of real independent media since editors, etc. are dependent on revenues from commercial ads, etc.
It is the rare magazine that forms an exception to this rule, and, of course, potentially, the world wide web with all its diverse faces.
With this note I will end this appendix.