22 August 2022
By Dean Arif, MY Bullion Trade
Definition of Money
Money is anything that is generally accepted as payment for goods and services and repayment of debts. The main uses of money are as a medium of exchange, a unit of account, and a store of value.
Aristotle on good money
Aristotle (384 BC – 322 BC) was a Greek philosopher, a student of Plato, and a teacher of Alexander the Great. Aristotle discovered, formulated, and analyzed the problem of commensurability. He wondered how ratios for a fair exchange of heterogeneous things could be set. He searched for a principle that makes it possible to equate what is apparently unequal and non-comparable.
Aristotle says that money, as a common measure of everything, makes things commensurable and makes it possible to equalize them. He states that it is in the form of money, a substance that has a purpose, that individuals have devised a unit that supplies a measure on the basis of which fair exchange can take place. Aristotle thus maintains that everything can be expressed in the universal equivalent of money. He explains that money was introduced to satisfy the requirement that all items exchanged must be comparable in some way.
Within such framework, Aristotle defined the characteristics of a good form of money:
- It must be durable. Money must stand the test of time and the elements. It must not fade, corrode, or change through time.
- It must be portable. Money holds a high amount of ‘worth’ relative to its weight and size.
- It must be divisible. Money should be relatively easy to separate and re-combine without affecting its fundamental characteristics. An extension of this idea is that the item should be ‘fungible’. Dictionary.com describes fungible as: “(esp. of goods) being of such nature or kind as to be freely exchangeable or replaceable, in whole or in part, for another of like nature or kind.”
- It must have intrinsic value. This value of money should be independent of any other object and contained in the money itself.
A good fit, but not perfect, for the characteristics above would be gold and silver. Why is it not perfect? This paper will discuss what kind of currencies would better fit community-based living, during The Great Reset.
It is found that the existing currency systems – fiat, banking, and cryptocurrency – are not compatible with the socio-economic objectives of a sustainable society, which upholds transparency and justice as its core values. A prudent currency system must provide stability and equitable distribution of wealth. A single international reserve currency (with country-specific legal tendering) is subject to the risk of destabilization across global markets.
This paper recommends autonomy to the people with the freedom to choose any asset-backed currencies without an imposed monopoly, the spending of seigniorage for the welfare of community members, and the usage of the currency helps to promote better air quality, improved soil microbiome, support flora and fauna diversity, and overall health and wellbeing of every life on the planet.
The Old Paradigm
Economic matters occupy an essential place in the short span of human life. A significant productive time of an average human is spent on the generation of resources to meet the demand for goods and services – essential for survival, as well as quality living. Generally, economic theories revolve around the classical concept of scarcity of resources. Hence, the economic issue is efficiency, i.e., maximization of utility by prudent utilization of limited resources. The utility is maximized through consumption of goods and services. Hence, under Western economic paradigm, rational behavior would be to increase control over goods and services to improve the quality of life and happiness.
Resource exploitation is on the rise in the form of technological discoveries. Every next discovery contributes to wealth creation and uplifting of living standards. However, at the same time, billions of people live in abject poverty. This is clear evidence of the inequitable distribution of wealth.
The community-based worldview differs from Western economic theories, primarily on the front of the objective of life. In community-based living, the goal of life is to be more humane and compassionate and taking care of oneself and others too. To be modest in the consumption of resources is preferred over increased control over goods and services in pursuit of material happiness. Therefore, under the community way of life, wants are filtered through the specific code of ethics. Resources are in abundance, bestowed by the Creator, and sufficient to meet the needs and wants of humanity and other creatures.
Finding a New Paradigm
Humanity has progressed through multiple currency systems during the course of history. Multiple items including gold, silver, grains, salt, dried fruits, copper, brass, and tin have been used as money. The paper currency became popular in the 19th century; however, initially, it was backed by gold, i.e., the gold standard. The US dollar was declared as the international reserve currency, fully convertible to gold and other currencies were pegged to the US dollar’s value under a monetary agreement known as the Bretton Woods agreement (1944). In addition, the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) were established. However, in 1973, the Bretton Woods agreement ended and a floating system dominated the international arena. Nowadays, nations are free to issue as much currency as they wish and the volume of international trade, GDP, and money supply determines the exchange rate between two currencies, a mechanism of supply and demand, but increasingly detached from the actual productivity of a nation.
The prevailing monetary system globally is based on fiat currency, issued by the central bank, and the use of it is mandated by the law of that country. This currency supply is further increased by the credit creation process of commercial banks. The banks have legal license to counterfeit money or create purchasing power out of thin air! No real goods and services back these instruments of currency but wealth is transferred to the currency creators with interest, resulting in socio-economic problems including inflation, fall in real incomes, increased property prices, and inequitable distribution of wealth. One wonders how come the religious leaders don’t make a squeak on this usury, creating currency out of thin air to be loaned out with interest, and must be paid back with hard labor collateralized by real goods and services. The bankers are able to create wealth out of nothing and control strategic resources which give them even more power and wealth.
The fiat currency system meets many of the desirable features of a currency system including divisibility, storability, transferability, and flexibility. However, its flexibility poses a challenge for stability. Any mismatch in currency and output can pose the problem of inflation or deflation, neither of which is desirable.
The cryptocurrency system lacks features of acceptability and flexibility. It neither carries inherent value nor is legitimized by legal tendering. Hence, this system poses severe threats in the area of loss of wealth on account of acceptability, in addition to the in-built limitation of flexibility and stability. Cryptocurrencies are too volatile to be a reliable measure of value and are held chiefly as speculative assets.
The Problem with Precious Metals as Currency
To retain its value, a currency should ideally be backed by some asset that has a stable value itself. Gold and silver have been used historically, but the gold-backed money system was scrapped because the banks did not have enough of that precious metal to satisfy the liquidity needs of the economy. The result was periodic bank runs and banking crises. The problem was actually not due to gold or silver, but rather, the irresistible temptation and greed of the bankers to issue more paper claims to the actual amount of bullion stored inside their underground vault. This is called “fractional reserve banking”, a nicer term for a pyramid scheme.
Precious metals have no expiry date, which makes them highly suitable as a long-term store of value but this extreme durability is also a weakness as wealthy elites would hoard gold, sometimes kept within their families for generations, preventing wealth from being circulated to the rest of the population. Hoarding is a mental disease but we celebrate these champion hoarders by putting them on the cover of Time magazine!
GATA.org has repeatedly exposed the collusion among banks, central banks, and wealthy individuals to control the price and supply of gold and related financial instruments. Prices of precious metals are highly manipulated. They are rigged on a daily basis and have been going on for many decades, preventing true price discovery of real supply and demand. Hence, precious metals are not suitable to be used as a measure of value until this manipulation ends.
Many countries around the world have Mines and Minerals Act that would usually grant the State automatic ownership rights to minerals found anywhere within its borders. In other words, if one discovers a large deposit of gold under one’s land, that resource does not belong to the land owner and the State at its discretion can choose to pay (or not to pay) royalties when granting mining concessions, usually given to a politically-connected and rich conglomerate. Once again, wealth is concentrated in the hands of a few and not equally distributed among the people.
This writer, being a precious metals trader of 12 years, realized that the majority of the population, about 55%, do not own gold in any form. It would be slow for the whole country to adopt precious metals money in the aftermath of hyperinflation. Also, it is difficult to buy groceries with physical precious metals as the grocer would not know how to make change. Since the majority of the population does not own gold, the knowledge and experience to authenticate gold would be extremely rare, making any commercial transaction a slow and distrustful process. This inefficient trade process can be mitigated by using an e-gold or e-silver digital wallet, 100% backed by the actual bullion, stored in a secure vault, and checked periodically by a reputable third-party auditor. These digital precious metals wallets can then be used alongside other forms of asset-backed currencies.
Organic Grains – A Case for Abundance-Based Currency
What sort of asset would hold its value and be widely available as collateral in a local community trading system today? With the threat of impending food shortages, food could satisfy that requirement. Community cooperatives can issue their own community coupons, backed by the food they produce. Sellers are often reluctant to accept unbacked community coupons in payment because other sellers may not accept them in trade, but food-backed currencies hold their value. They are promises to pay in food or advances against future productivity. They are paper or digital stores of food that can be reclaimed in the future, cashed in for fresh produce long after storage of food in the refrigerator would have expired.
A group of local farmers could be organized under a cooperative to issue community coupons as a paper or digital community currency, which could be spent into circulation to buy what the farmers needed to produce their crops. The currency would circulate in the local community and would be accepted back by the farmers in payment for the products they sell.
Therefore, the currency has a beginning and an end; it is created and it is extinguished. It is created by the act of spending and it is extinguished in the act of redemption, not in some other currency, but in goods and services that have been promised.
Community coupons operate on the same sort of credit clearing system that banks use to create the “bank money” composing the majority of our currency supply today, but they do it without manipulation by profiteering middlemen. Money is created as a debit in an account and is extinguished when the debt is repaid. No interest is charged, so there is no built-in imperative for growth. Community coupons also allow communities to make decisions about where capital should flow rather than giving that decision-making power solely to banks, and they foster human relationships, building unity and encouraging people to interact with one another.
Organic is a philosophy, not just about nutritionally-superior food. Organic is a vision for working and living in harmony with nature. The result is clean water, unpolluted air, and healthy soil, which grows healthy plants, which make for healthy people. By abstaining from synthetic inputs and encouraging natural systems, organic farmers help create a better future for people, animals, and the environment. It also means anybody can start an organic farm by using the readily available resources provided cheaply by nature. By biodynamically toiling the land, the farmer can grow money on trees! Wealth can then be equally distributed among the hard-working population. In the event of a country going bankrupt, the economy can be quickly restarted by local communities organizing themselves and trade using community-issued coupons.
The long-term effect would lead to healthier and happier people, more sustainable society by way of mutual cooperation. The health of water, air, soil, plant, animal, and man is one and indivisible.
Policies for Community Coupons
Money is expected to serve as an exchange medium, a value benchmark or unit of calculation, a value storage medium, and a commodity all at the same time. The savings aspect required as exponential growth factor to pay interest and money now has an unlimited mobility through international financial markets. The savings function is in direct conflict with the exchange function and does not support the creation of local jobs.
A community coupon can be designed to emphasize the exchange medium and accounting unit functions and minimize the savings function. Its mobility, i.e. its geographic scope of validity, can be reduced to a manageable size, and its value as a storage medium must be restricted to being stable (backed by real commodities), without the additional attribute of interest (usury). The essential aims are to create local jobs, to stem the drain of purchasing power from the region, and to open up new avenues to enable local government to fulfill its designated tasks.
An interest-free crowd-funding using a community coupon is a powerful tool that encourages more diverse local production and consumption. People start up new businesses and create jobs. Poor families can get micro-credit for consumption, which they pay back with their labor. Being able to convert national currency into community coupons and back again gives businesses the flexibility they need to deal with the traditional market outside the community.
Micro-credit and crowd-funding utilizing the community coupon keep wealth local and reduce transport costs, food miles, and carbon footprints. Community coupon works to protect the local and global environment.
Criteria Applying to a Community Coupon
A community coupon should ideally:
- Represent a win-win situation for all participants.
- Be organized with the aim of mutual social benefit.
- Be professionally run.
- Be transparent and auditable for its users.
- Be democratically governed.
- Be sustainably financed.
- Contain circulating incentives.
The purpose of a currency is to circulate and not be hoarded, thereby creating many economic spin-offs and social benefits. There are many ways to encourage circulation:
- The best way is to make the benefits of the currency so attractive that people want to use it for their daily business.
- Regular social events and trade fairs help people to form relationships and trust.
- A circulation incentive (also called a hoarding fee or parking fee) makes the currency lose a small part of its value over time – the same effect of perishable natural products like grains.
- Expiry dates for vouchers and notes.
Why should currency expire? The economy is like a dynamic bloodstream, currency that doesn’t flow damages the economy. Similar to the 2.5% Islamic zakat on gold, silver (or other properties that can be weighed and calculated), that are not used or kept for long-term savings, it is a sin to hoard wealth and not let it circulate, depriving others of capital. When wealth is allowed to circulate, more wealth can be created in the community which will flow back to the rich multiple times.
We need to design a community currency with all these features to counterbalance the destructive nature of interest on money. Interest constantly shifts wealth from the poor to the rich and creates pathological pressure for economic growth through labor exploitation and environmental destruction.
Moving Forward and Getting Things Done
How can we create a more equitable global economy that would serve the needs of all, including today’s have-nots and future generations? We need to build a new economy based on care and concern for others, and to acknowledge the underlying unity of human beings and nature. When we change the rules, we change the results.
The more a person works for the benefit of the community, and the more the community is structured to provide for the needs of each individual, the greater the well-being of the whole community will be.
A corollary to this is that human suffering caused by social institutions is a result of egoism, and the more people work out of self-interest or egoism, the more poverty, want, and suffering will be introduced into social life somewhere, sometime.
The new frontier is the internet, coupled with secure cloud hosting and mobile payment system, which open up great possibilities and challenges at the same time. Innovating community coupons on this platform would spur growth on a larger scale with a seamless transaction process, facilitating exchange and releasing the potential of real wealth.
Nature teaches us the need to maintain a harmonic balance between efficiency and resilience and we can apply this knowledge to the design of new currency systems that mimic complex living organisms, like the distribution of nutrients through complex root systems and the interplay of soil, sun, air, and microbes in a forest, a local currency creates a circulation system for the assets and talents of a community. A multitude of different currency systems provides a much stronger support for people in times of crisis and gives us the tools for the transition towards stable commodity-backed currencies and the sustainable communities of tomorrow.