This article was the authors' contribution to a broader debate on the direction and relevance of specific aspects of alternative economic research that ran through the pages of Fourth World Review during 1994. The article appeared by design in the Letters section of the journal rather than as a stand-alone feature. It has been included here without further editing. Read the Covering Letter to the Editor of Fourth World Review here.
The reviewer of Paradigms in Progress (FWR Nr 62) is a little unkind to Hazel Henderson, who has virtually singlehanded converted many a good man and true to the alternative cause through her writings and her impassioned keynote speeches. Indeed it was the reading of The Politics of The Solar Age in the late seventies that brought many an innocent to their economic senses. But nonetheless, the reviewer is right to take issue with the idea that she is one of the most dangerous women in America by suggesting instead that she is actually "benign to the status quo and virulent to fundamental change."
Much more dangerous to the existing economic order is the little remark tucked away in a letter on the previous page of FWR Number 62 where the writer mentions that he is "...in the process of starting a LETS called Sherborne Barter which might revive the dying community here." If there are green shoots to be found, then it is here in these simple accounting devices that we should be seeking them. Yet it must by now be clear that the suicidal success of today's economic order depends on the destruction of all human communities including that of the elite. So what will happen when the Debt-Usury Boys take out their weedkiller and go for the green shoots with a vengeance? What security do we have that LETS can survive the onslaught? At present the answer is nothing more substantial than a wing and a prayer.
We think we can do better than this, so we have established a research group to compare and link the various free money theories and action groups especially across the English-German-French divides. Our immediate purpose is to make the ideas in the 1911 classic The Natural Economic Order by the German-born economist Silvio Gesell (1862-1930), available to an English-speaking audience, because Local Exchange Trading Systems backed by Gesellist currencies represents a truly viable alternative to the privileged monetary monopolies sustain-ing the war-based debt-usury currencies of New York, Berlin and Tokyo.
Silvio Gesell is dangerous to the monopoly in a way that Marx never was...something which John Maynard Keynes saw quite clearly in 1936 when he made the following comments in his own classic work, General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money: "[The Natural Economic Order] is written in cool, scientific language; though it is suffused throughout by a more passionate, a more emotional devotion to social justice than some think decent in a scientist. The purpose of the book may be described as the establishment of an anti-Marxian socialism, a reaction against laissez-faire built on theoretical foundations totally unlike those of Marx in being based on an unfettering of competition instead of its abolition...I believe that the future will learn more from the spirit of Gesell than from that of Marx."
Silvio Gesell, himself, wrote that: "The only real security [for the German mark] would be the monetary education of a sufficient number of men who, in the event of legislation affecting monetary standard, would form a bodyguard, so to speak, to protect the mark from bunglers and swindlers. But at present this security does not exist, for the indifference of the general public, of science, of the press, of business men, to monetary theory is so great that it would be difficult to collect among the millions of the German population a dozen persons for a serious discussion of the subject." Well, it is no easier today a century later. But LETS will shortly be in urgent need of such a bodyguard and our work is aimed at responding to Gesell's challenge...beginning with a correspondence course in English, French and German on The Natural Economic Order.
What Proudhon and Kropotkin began, and Gesell, Borsodi and Kohr continued, we would like to see made intellectually respectable amidst the crumbling dynasties of Marxian and Keynsian monetary dictatorships. This will mean expanding the LETS idea from a work barter system into a monetary system, authorised by our own association of small Fourth World nation states and enabled by a LETS-based tradition of really free local market economy.
Peter Etherden, Custom House, Rye, Sussex, England.
Anton Pinschof, Kergroas Vras, Mael Pestivien, Brittany.
Guy Fawkes Day 1994
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