Friday, December 02, 2005

The Methodist paper reviews the book

Review in Touchstone, the Methodist Church’s newspaper, November 2005

Healthy Money Healthy Planet: Developing Sustainability through New Money Systems
Reviewer: Rinny Westra

YOU CANNOT SERVE God and Money, said Jesus. But whether we like it or not, those of us who claim to serve God also tend to serve what the author describes as “dirty money”. This is the money created as interest-bearing debt by private banks, but with the approval of the Reserve Bank.

It is this money creation that drives economic growth, and that commits us to a growing rather than a sustainable economy. In such a system there are always losers, because people and firms must go further into debt to avoid economic collapse. Consequences include the growing gap between rich and poor, the horrific indebtedness of the Third World, and the degrading of the environment.

The author spends the first part of the book outlining the dire situation that the dogmatic commitment to ‘dirty money’ is driving us into. Unlimited economic growth on a planet with finite resources does not make sense.

The author does not leave it there. The second part of her book outlines ways in which ‘healthy money’ i.e. money that is not interest-bearing and that serves solely as a means of exchange, can be created.

She recommends local currencies that are complementary to the official currency. These include initiatives like Green Dollars (less popular now than they were in the 1980s and 1990s) and commercial barter through schemes like Bartercard. She presents lots of constructive detail from all over the world in this part of the book.

Much research has gone into this, and the vision that she creates is a compelling one. She bases economics on ecology, and brings reality to what is often an arid discipline that is far removed from the realities of life.

Did you know that according to the standard measurements of GDP ‘Being pregnant, chasing toddlers and breast feeding do not add to the GDP, but looking after other people’s children in a day-care centre does.’ That “If we hang our washing on the line we do nothing for the economy, but by placing it in the dryer we are helping.”? (P72)

As someone who has spent a brief time teaching economics, I would have appreciated this book, as well as Marilyn Waring’s Counting for Nothing, as offering an important alternative to the irrational commitment to economic fundamentalism (‘there is no alternative’) that has been so dominant in the economic and business discourse of the past two decades. May it help reshape our thinking, our money system and our dog-eat-dog society.

This book also has appendices listing useful websites and organisations, as well as a very good glossary.

1 comment:

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