1 Dec 2012

Margrit Kennedy : Occupy Money

I have just read Margit Kennedy's short but sweet book "Occupy Money". Her basic point is that the current economic system, based on creating the money supply as interest bearing debt is truly unworkable. There is a tsunami of unrepayable debt that has been building up that will swamp us all. But she has a number of suggestions for ways to escape the impending doom. We are effectively all on the Titanic, heading straight for the iceburg. But we still have time to build lifeboats. Those lifeboats can be very varied in nature, but there is a good chance that when the Titanic sinks there will be enough lifeboats around, some of which may well be perfectly sea-worthy.

There were a number of ideas in the book that particularly caught my eye.

One is an idea for interest free lending that has been successfully used by Sweden's JAK Members Bank since 1965.

Normally, Banks require interest charges to cover various costs. Kennedy takes a typical case where an 8% interest charge might be broken down as follows:
  1. Bank service charge (1.7%)
  2. Risk premium (0.8%)
  3. Liquidity premium (4.0%)
  4. Inflation offset (1.5%)
Under the JAK scheme, only the running costs of 1.7% are needed because the scheme works as a sort of cooperative. Suppose you need €200,000 to purchase a house. If you join the scheme you first have to save about 10% of the sum to get enough "savings points" to obtain the loan. After that, you make regular payments every month that include three components :
  • a component that pays back the loan
  • a component that pays for the work of the bank
  • a component that goes into the savings account
Margrit Kennedy compares what would happen for someone paying off the loan with 8% compound interest with a conventional bank loan, with the JAK mechanism using the table below.
Total monthly payments are fairly similar for the two systems, as are the total payments over the 25 years. But in the conventional bank scheme, the vast majority of the extra money has been eaten up by interest payments. Those interest payments may have gone to other savers, which may seem okay. But, since most of the money that banks lend is created out of nothing using the fractional reserve banking, in fact most of that money has probably gone to the bankers themselves.  By contrast, in the JAK system, it is true that 57,000 euros has been paid to the bank in running costs, the remaining 196,200 has gone back to the customer as savings.

The critical feature of the system is that it can operate without the need for compound interest, and so the system is insulated from the effects of the current system in which there is automatically a flow of money from those who need to borrow money to the wealthiest members of the population. This point is made very clearly in a study by Helmut Creutz who divided the German population into 10 slices depending on household income, and calculated how the burden of interest payments was distributed across the different groups. He also calculated the income from interest for the same groups. As you can see in the figure below, 80% of the population lose out. Only the top 20% of households benefit from the system at all, and the bulk of the benefit goes to the top 10% who "earn" nearly all the money that the interest based system produces.
And as Margrit Kennedy notes, the net result is that "in Germany alone in 2007, the sum redistributed as interest from the large majority to this minority was in excess of 600 million euros every day". That is not because the people with the money "earn" the extra income, but because the debt-based system is set up that way. And it doesn't have to be like that.

1 comment:

  1. Whence the idea that debt is "unrepayable? The chart at URL below shows debt declining in the 18 months Aug 2010 to Feb 2012. And that's just in nominal terms. The decline in inflation adjusted terms will be even larger.