The End of Money and the Future of Civilization – Book Review

[From my friend, Tad -- thanks, Tad! note - this is long.. if your time is limited, go to the bottom and read the bold print there -- a key point made.]

Thomas Greco’s “The End of Money and the Future of Civilization”
A Review by Richard C. Cook

It’s too late for anyone to pretend that the U.S.
government, whether under President Barack Obama
or anyone else, can divert our nation from
long-term economic decline. The U.S. is
increasingly in a state of political, economic,
and moral paralysis, caught as it were between
the “rock” of protracted recession and the “hard
place” of terminal government debt.

Even if the stock market can be shored up by more
government borrowing for “stimulus” spending,
it’s a temporary reprieve, because nothing can
bring back the consumer purchasing power that was
lost when the banks stopped pumping money into
the economy through out-of-control mortgage
lending. We simply no longer have the job base
for people to earn the income they need to live.

The underlying cause of the crisis is in fact the
debt-based monetary system, whereby the U.S.
ruling class long ago sold out our nation and its
people to the international banking cartel of
which the Rockefeller and Morgan interests have
been the chief representatives for over a
century. It was lending on a previously unheard
of scale for overpriced assets to people and
businesses unable to repay that created the
bubbles that burst in 2008, not only in the
housing market but also in such areas as
commercial real estate, equities, commodities,
and derivatives. It was an explosion that
reverberated throughout the world.

The Obama administration’s response to the crisis
has been to print Treasury bonds both for the
financial system bailouts and the sputtering
Keynesian stimulus that so far has gone
substantially into military infrastructure. This
bond bubble is what I have referred to as
“Obama’s Last Picture Show.”
http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=12512

Government debt is fundamentally inflationary.
For a generation, the U.S. dollar has been
inflating at an increasing rate, with the economy
being kept in a growth posture by selling our
debt instruments abroad or allowing foreigners
holding dollars to purchase property and other
assets on our own soil. The website
EconomyinCrisis.org reports that in 2007, the
most recent year for which data are available,
“foreign entities spent $267.8 billion to acquire
or establish U.S. businesses.”

http://www.economyincrisis.org/articles/show/2801

Foreigners are spending their dollars as fast as
possible, because they are now plummeting in
value. It’s increasingly clear that sooner rather
than later, the dollar will be dumped by foreign
purchasers of bonds, particularly China, and
possibly even the oil-producing nations.

These nations know full well that bonds
denominated in dollars can never be completely
repaid, even if the bonds can be rolled over into
fresh debt. It’s this dynamic that is dragging
the U.S. economy to the cliff, because real
economic growth stopped long ago when our
manufacturing jobs were exported. This is because
most of the growth since Ronald Reagan was
elected president in 1980 has been only on paper
through financial bubbles. This included the
dot.com bubble of the Clinton years that blew up
in 2000-2001.

Now, after the Treasury bond bubble of 2009,
there is nothing left in America to inflate. With
so many jobs gone, the American family home was
the last thing of value we owned.

So the air is going out of the tires. Americans
who are struggling to work for a living are
passive spectators as their jobs, savings, health
insurance, pensions, and homes continue to erode
in value or even disappear. Last Sunday the
Washington Post reported a massive crisis in
state and local government pensions. Reporter
David Cho wrote, “The financial crisis has blown
a hole in the rosy forecasts of pension funds
that cover teachers, police officers and other
government employees, casting into doubt as never
before whether these public systems will be able
to keep their promises to future generations of
retirees.”

So what, if anything, can be done about it?

Well, the first thing an intelligent physician
does is diagnose the disease. Thomas Greco, in
his new book The End of Money and the Future of
Civilization (Chelsea Green: 2009) , outlines the
increasingly familiar story of how things got so
bad, and he tells it as well as anyone has ever
done. His style is precise and sometimes
academic. Behind it, though, is a passion for
truth and the type of rock-solid integrity that
refuses to sugar-coat a very bitter pill.

More than that, Greco writes about how to change
what has gone wrong. His credentials as an
engineer, college professor, author, and
consultant are impeccable. His book is among the
most important written in this decade. It is
truly a book that can alter the world and, if
taken seriously, give large numbers of people a
practical way to survive the gathering
catastrophe.

But unlike most commentators, what Greco offers
is not another phony prescription for what the
financiers and government should do for us,
whether through “restarting” lending or another
round of stimulus spending. Rather it’s what we
should do for ourselves, and could do much
better, if we understood what to do and if big
banking and big government just got out of the
way.

As I said, at the root is the monetary system,
whose failure cannot be understood without a
history lesson. So Greco writes about the
struggle between banking and democracy that took
place in the 1790s when the ink on our new
national constitution was barely dry.

It was Alexander Hamilton, the first secretary of
the treasury, who compromised the new nation,
through what he admitted was “corruption,” by
giving the wealthy speculators in Revolutionary
War bonds the benefit of federally-sponsored
redemption and then by establishing the First
Bank of the United States. This early drift
toward elitist rule was opposed by Thomas
Jefferson, James Madison, and others who figured
in the creation of what later became the
Democratic Party.

Greco writes: “While Jefferson favored a stronger
union than that which emerged under the Articles
of Confederation, he was vehemently opposed to
the reconstruction of monarchic government on the
American continent.” Hamilton had said frankly
that the British monarchy was the best system of
government known to man. Part of the monarchic
system was the Bank of England, which Hamilton
copied when setting up the First Bank.

But Jefferson, who repudiated Hamilton’s elitist
platform, was elected president in what was then
called “The Revolution of 1800.” Congress refused
to renew the Bank’s charter by a single vote when
it was up for renewal in 1811.

But the Second Bank of the United States was
chartered in 1816 due to the government debt left
behind from the War of 1812 against Great
Britain. Thus was set up what became known as the
“Bank War.”

It was President Andrew Jackson who dethroned the
bankers from power by pulling government funds
out of the Second Bank in 1833. Greco writes that
in Jackson’s view: “The ‘Bank War’ was a contest
for rulership-would the United States be governed
by the people through their elected president and
representatives, or by an unelected financial
elite through their central bank instrument?”

The modern takeover began in earnest during the
Civil War when Congress passed the National
Banking Acts in 1863-64 which mandated use of
government bonds as bank lending reserves,
thereby creating a direct linkage between bank
profits and the debt the government was starting
to load on the shoulders of taxpayers.

The nation’s fate was sealed with the passage of
the Federal Reserve Act in 1913. The deal was
that the bankers would control the currency, and
thereby the nation’s economy, while the
government would be provided with an unlimited
amount of inflated dollars to fight its wars.

The bookkeeper’s trick of creating money out of
thin air, charging interest for its use, then
forcing it down the throats of weaker nations by
threat of violence, is what has allowed the
Anglo-American empire, since the founding of the
Bank of England in 1696, gradually to conquer the
world. Though President Woodrow Wilson signed the
Federal Reserve Act into law, he saw what that
action meant. Greco cites Wilson as writing:
“There has come about an extraordinary and very
sinister concentration in the control of business
in the country….The great monopoly in this
country is the monopoly of big credits.”

Among other ill effects, the system has ruined
the value of the currency. The inflation caused
by large issues of bank-created loans is seized
upon by the government which goes along because
inflation reduces the cost of its deficits.
Investors buy Treasury bonds denominated in
Federal Reserve Notes then watch their value
evaporate over time. In fact Federal Reserve
Notes have lost over 95 percent of their value
since they were first introduced.

Moreover, it’s additional inflation caused by
bank-generated interest that drives up the costs
of goods and services, forcing everyone in the
economy to try to defend themselves by raising
their prices to the max. Greco spells this out
too, which almost every economist in the world,
with the exception perhaps of Australia’s James
Cumes, overlooks.

Bank interest has other tragic effects. It was
high interest rates, for instance, that destroyed
the Idaho potato industry. A farmer from that
region told me at a conference a few years ago
that when interest rates skyrocketed in the early
1980s, he asked the president of one of the
Federal Reserve Banks why they did it. The answer
was they were “ordered” to raise interest rates
by the international banking system.

Make no mistake, it’s the banking system,
facilitated by the Fed, not unwary borrowers, who
brought on the collapse of 2008.

Now, in 2009, the bankers, mainly those in the
U.S., have so shattered the world economy by debt
mounted on debt that there may be no reprieve
except the creation of a slave society based on
rule by the rich over the masses of whatever
peons should happen to survive the downturn and
its tragic effects on employment, health, the
food and water supply, and even our ability to
cope with climate change.

The political establishment, expressing itself in
pronouncements by organizations like the Council
on Foreign Relations, see a future, not of
economic democracy or increased financial
pluralism, but consolidation of world currencies
into a small number overseen at the top by the
world’s financial oligarchy. Citing the writings
of Benn Steil, the CFR’s Director of
International Economics, Greco writes: “The
ostensible plan is to reduce global exchange
media to three-one each for Europe, the Americas,
and Asia. One might reasonably suppose that at a
later stage, those three would be combined into
one currency also under the control of the global
banking elite.”

Greco concludes: “The New World Order is upon us.”

With ample justification, he even goes
apocalyptic, citing The Book of Revelation in
demonstrating the import on a spiritual plane of
the elitist takeover: And he causeth all, both
small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to
receive a mark in their right hand or in their
foreheads: And that no man might buy or sell,
save he that had the mark, or the name of the
beast, or the number of his name. (Revelation 13:
16-17)

But is it really the end, or is there a new world
waiting to be born? Greco thinks so. He speaks of
the end of an era when unlimited economic growth
fed by massive influxes of debt-based money is no
longer sustainable. He writes: “That our global
civilization cannot continue on its current path
seems evident….But I think our collective
consciousness is beginning to change. We are
becoming aware of limits and are reaching that
part of our evolutionary program that says,
‘Stop!’”

Part of the awareness of how to stop must focus
on the institutions responsible for the crisis.
Greco praises Ron Paul for calling out the
Federal Reserve in the 2008 presidential
campaign. He cites a statement Paul made to
Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan in a 2004
hearing where Paul told Greenspan that the power
of the Fed “challenges the whole concept of
freedom and liberty and sound money.” Thus Paul
and other monetary reformers, though largely
ignored by the mainstream media and political
establishment, have made it clear that change
must start with what really lies at the bottom of
elite control: how money is made and who makes it.

Unfortunately, few progressive economists,
including Paul Krugman, Joseph Stiglitz, and
Robert Reich comprehend the monetary causes of
today’s disasters. Instead of demanding reforms
that would make money the proper servant of a
sustainable economy, most call for more stimulus
spending; i.e., more government debt, along with
“reform” of a financial system that is corrupt
down to its very DNA.

So do we really need the bankers’ fake currency,
today backed by nothing but a federal deficit of
$12 trillion and growing by the day?

Greco says we don’t, and this is what his book
about. But it’s not about doing without the
necessities of life, or heading for the hills
with a gun and backpack. Nor is it about
important efforts at macro-level monetary reform
like those of the American Monetary Institute,
Congressman Dennis Kucinich, or advocates for a
basic income guarantee. Rather it’s about
individuals, groups, and communities taking
control of the monetary system at the grassroots
level and creating an entirely new basis for
trade than bank-owed debt.

Greco writes about “a new paradigm approach to
the exchange function.” The solution, he says,
“is to provide interest-free credit to producers
within the process of mutual credit clearing.
That is the process of offsetting purchases
against sales within an association of merchants,
manufacturers, and workers. It will eventually
include everyone who buys and sells, or makes and
receives disbursements of any kind.”

Greco is one of the world’s leading experts in
describing alternative or complementary
currencies. These are self-regulating systems
that facilitate “reciprocal exchange,” not using
government legal tender but which are still
allowed under the currency laws so long as taxes
are not evaded.

Greco discusses the large and growing worldwide
“LETS” movement-Local Exchange Trading Systems,
like the Ithaca HOURS system in Ithaca, New York.
He describes the Swiss WIR Bank, the
longest-running credit clearing system in the
world, with over 70,000 members. He writes about
the national and international barter exchanges
that involve over 400,000 businesses trading at
an annual level of $10 billion.

Greco also describes the world-famous Mondragon
Cooperatives from the Basque region of Northern
Spain. Started by a Roman Catholic priest in
1941, the Mondragon system, he says, is “the hub
of what is probably the most successful and
progressive social cooperative economy in modern
history.”

He also tells the inspiring story of the
Argentine trading clubs-the trueques-which, when
used with “provincial bonds” issued by regional
governments, rescued that country during the 2001
economic collapse brought on by the collusion
between the Argentine government and the
International Monetary Fund.

Credit clearing is not new. Greco traces it to
the medieval European fairs. These exchanges are
like banking clearing houses. The world’s largest
is the automated clearing house-ACH-operated by
the Federal Reserve.

But as Greco points out: “The clearing process
need not be restricted to banks; it can be
applied directly to transactions between buyers
and sellers of goods and services. The LETS
systems that have proliferated in communities
around the world use the credit clearing process,
as do commercial trade exchanges. Credit clearing
systems are, in essence, clearing houses-but
their members are businesses and individuals
instead of banks.”

Alternative currency and trading systems, says
Greco, are the wave of the future. Even though
most only mount up to partial local successes,
they show what can be done. Greco likens these
efforts to the Wright Brothers’ first flight that
covered 120 feet. They show, he says, that the
potential exists for local, regional, then
national and international money-free exchanges
that eventually could be joined by a single
web-based trading platform. This could eventually
get rid of the corruption of debt-money
altogether.

Chapter 16 of the book is about “A Regional
Economic Development Plan Based on Credit
Clearing” that shows the potential. Greco writes,
“The credit clearing exchange is the key element
that enables a community to develop a sustainable
economy under local control and to maintain a
high standard of living and quality of life.”

This would be a real revolution. What can
governments do to help? Perhaps only by removing,
as Greco recommends, the privileged position of
bank debt-money as legal tender. Instead, let
bank money compete with market-based alternative
currencies and credit exchanges, if it can.

Greco’s book is a how-to-do-it manual that
updates and expands on his previous books, Money
and Debt: A Solution to the Global Crisis, New
Money for Healthy Communities, and Money:
Understanding and Creating Alternatives to Legal
Tender. Greco also operates a website that offers
advice and support to worthwhile community
initiatives.  Click Here

My own view is that no one should wait to see who
takes the lead in creating the monetary and
credit-clearing systems of the future. The time
is now. There is no more reason to delay. If the
people of the world do not join together in this
kind of action, they can likely kiss their
economic future and perhaps their livelihoods
good-bye. The controllers of the world, those
with the big money, the ones who run the banking
systems, who own the global corporations, and who
finance politicians like Obama, the Bushes, and
the Clintons, are now poised in their blindness
to extinguish the light of democracy on the
planet for good.

Greco is implying that the power of the elite is
not only dated but illusory. Thus the way to
proceed is not just to oppose them. If they are
opposed, they’ll do what they always do, which is
to roll out the SWAT teams, the military in the
streets, the tear gas, the sound cannon, the
concentration camps, the Patriot Acts, the
torture chambers, because that is all they know,
and it’s what they do best.

The money monopoly translates into a monopoly on
violence on an ascending scale. We know that the
U.S. sells more weapons abroad than any other
nation, and we know that it is war above all that
makes the bankers rich.

So let them have their weapons and wars. With all
due respect to those brave enough to protest,
it’s time for people simply to walk away and set
up their own economic and monetary systems as a
prelude to a rebirth of humanity as ethical
beings in sustainable communities of choice.

The keys, says Greco, are simple: “Promote the
establishment of private complementary exchange
systems-and use them. Buy from your friends and
neighbors wherever possible. Contribute your
time, energy, and money to whatever moves things
in the right direction.”

Greco also recommends that the unit of exchange
for alternative currencies be based on the value
of commodities-not necessarily gold or silver,
which bankers and governments manipulate, but
those commodities readily available within a
trading system. State and local governments
should do everything possible to protect,
encourage, nourish, and participate in these
systems.

The irony is that what may appear on the surface
to be technical changes in how the exchange of
goods and services takes place can have such
profound effects. The answer is that systems of
exchange reflect entirely different perceptions
of the world. Bank-money exchange reflects and
creates a system of elite control and human
slavery. Reciprocal credit exchange reflects and
creates a democratic system on a level monetary
playing field.

The difference points to the fact that such
reform is, above all, a spiritual endeavor.
Thomas Greco has devoted decades to this quest
and is one of its foremost visionaries. In an
Epilogue he writes: “We will either learn to put
aside sectarian differences, to recognize all
life as one life, to cooperate in sharing earth’s
bounty, and yield control to a higher power-or we
will find ourselves embroiled in ever-more
destructive conflicts that will leave the planet
in ruins and avail only the meanest form of
existence for the few, if any, who survive.”

It’s a vision we can all strive to embrace.

© 2009 by Richard C. Cook

Richard C. Cook is a former federal government
analyst who writes on public policy issues. His
website is www.richardccook.com. His latest book
is We Hold These Truths: The Hope of Monetary
Reform (Tendril Press, 2009). For a listing of
over 170 alternative currency systems worldwide,
along with other resources, see the website for
the Complementary Currency Resource Center.

About Mare Cromwell

Mare Cromwell is the award-winning author of "Messages from Mother.... Earth Mother" and "If I gave you God's phone number....Searching for Spirituality in America." She is currently working on her third book: "The Great Mother Bible." She has studied with Native American teachers for eighteen years and sits on the World Council for Wisdom Gatherings. Mare calls Western Maryland her home. To learn more about her books, go to http://www.pamoonpress.com. (Note: she is a former worm herder. ;~)
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