13 Jun 2012

Bill Still's "No More National Debt"

I've just finished reading Bill Still's book published in 2011 called "No More National Debt". It's available as a Kindle document which can be read on Macs and iPads too. The content overlaps with some of the material in his excellent documentary "The Secret of Oz", but there are many new things that get discussed and make the whole thing well worth reading. I was particularly interested to hear about earlier attempts to obtain monetary reform.

For example, chapter 26 talks about the Program for Monetary Reform - a document produced by the following group of economists in July 1939.
  • Paul H. Douglas (University of Chicago)
  • Irving Fisher (Yale)
  • Frank D. Graham (Princeton)
  • Earl J. Hamilton (Duke)
  • Willford I. King (New York University)
  • Charles R. Whittlesay (Princeton)
The document which you can download here is stuffed full of very sensible ideas, including the need to ban fractional reserve banking.

But it turns out that proposal to ban fractional reserve banking dates from even further back. It was Frederick Soddy, an "amateur" economist  who was a Nobel-prize winning Chemist at the University of Oxford, who can apparently take the credit. Soddy wrote four books between 1921 and 1934 in which he proposed a number of radical ideas, and you can download his 1934 book "The Role of Money" here. At the time, he was dimissed a crank, but several of his ideas are now almost orthodox:
  • The abandonment of the gold standard
  • Letting interntational exchange rates float
  • Using the quantity of money to counter cyclical trends
  • Establishing a consumer price index to monitor the quantity of money
His last major idea - banning fractional reserve banking - still hasn't been implemented, but I really hope that he will one day be proved to have been correct. I rather like the idea that an eccentric non-economist from Oxford might be able to propose some wacky ideas that end up getting taken up many years later. Who knows, maybe my proposal to use a variable rate FTT to keep the total money supply automatically at the  "correct" level may be someday be seen as the solution!

It also turns out the J.R.R. Tolkein, the author of the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, was also interested in monetary reform, and said 
"There should only be one source of money: one fountainhead from which flows the nation's blood to vitalise commerce and industry, ensure economic equity and justice and safeguard the welfare of the people... In other words, it has always been and has always been our contention that the prerogative of creating and issuing the money of the nation should be restored to the State."
It doesn't take much of a leap of imagination to suppose that when the Dark Lord Sauron had enslaved the people of Middle Earth with his rings of power, those golden rings, "forged in the fires of Mount Doom could be symbolic of central banks and their power to convince entire nations to borrow their money into existence".

At the end of Bill Still's book, he gives an overview of a number of places where interesting new ideas are being considered. For example, there is an excellent organisation called Monetative in Germany that is working along the same lines as the Positive Money group in the UK.

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