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  • Posted August 7th, 2023
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    More on the money problem: it doesn’t have to be ‘scarce’

    More on the money problem: it doesn’t have to be ‘scarce’

    Following on from a recent post by Tom Greco, on the essential nature of money, Dil Green of Lowimpact.org and Mutual Credit Services here talks about its apparent scarcity, how that negatively affects our communities and our well-being, and how it could be different – based on mutual credit and the commons economy.


    Conditioned by the experience of money as a scarce commodity, we have built that story into our culture.

    The actuality – that all money is trust-based credit – not a thing which can be owned, but a social relationship whose value depends upon a social setting – seems lost.

    This condition imposes upon us a double bind.

    First, our sociality is undermined, as, certain that there is not enough to go round, we are condemned, always, to worry about having enough.

    Worried, we compete, we hoard, we value the short term over the long, we trust less.

    Second, the results of this behaviour make it harder for us to work together to build actual value.

    Increasingly, we begin to believe that it is *only* in the context of access to money, that we can trust that others will cooperate.

    Living in and through the experience of these conditions, we find that each reinforces the other.

    Collaboration does become less effective. We give each other less credit. We look more to impersonal mechanisms to mediate society as we trust less, substituting its weaker cousin, institutional confidence.

    Our experience of money becomes less personal, and less responsive to our own efforts, to the quality of our sociality, so that the story of money as scarce, necessarily institutional, remote and obdurate – money as physics, rather than money as relationship – becomes ‘real’.

    Many – myself included – have looked at this setup and concluded that the mechanisms of money are the issue – that some version of the scarcity story is at the core of our inability, as a newly global society, to coordinate our response to the omnicrisis.

    Broadly, there have been three responses.

    REACTIVE: Money is inherently bad. Build social relations which suppress any notion of ‘keeping score’. Poster child: the gift economy.

    DOUBLE DOWN: Build incorruptible, impersonal institutions for ideal money. Poster child: Bitcoin

    GRASSROOTS: In niches, build sociality which delivers its own credit – seek a virtuous upward spiral so we can work our way out of the double bind. Poster child: Mutual Credit.

    In case you don’t know. I work in this last mode.

    Here’s the thing, though. The omnicrisis is gathering pace, threatening tipping points, and this is, unsurprisingly, increasing fear, which tends to impose short term binaries – either denial; ‘carry on because this works for now’, or panic; almost random ‘rip it all down and do THIS IDEA instead’.

    While I am still sure for myself that working in the grassroots context is the right choice, ‘Heading for Hell in a Handcart’ times are not the easiest context for introducing complicated-sounding new ideas into an entrenched double bind.

    It’s hard work, and slow and vulnerable to the intensification of crises.

    But this is not about despair, but rather hope.

    It’s about realising that, in the West at least, local economies have been so hollowed out, that local economic niches have no common infrastructure – it belongs either to the state, or to the corporates.

    Economic networks without common infrastructure are like conversations; fine when everyone is part of them, but quick to evaporate and easy to disrupt.

    If we are to build grassroots economies which are robust enough and different enough to be beacons which inspire other communities to want to emulate – a fundamental requirement if ‘better’ is to spread organically – then building Commons infrastructure must be a core ambition of any programme.

    An economy built around Commons infrastructure is anchored, . like a conversation around a shared belief- something meaningful is present, even if no one is saying anything.

    The good news is, that the money mechanics of mutual credit, backed by the use value of Commons infrastructure, provides a double benefit which can act as a powerful counter to the double bind.


    The views expressed in our blog are those of the author and not necessarily lowimpact.org's


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