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MOOC Alumni newsletter

Greetings Alumni of the Money and Society MOOC,

Jem and I decided to keep in touch with you with this new Biannual newsletter. It includes some headlines I found interesting, and other tidbits about what Jem and I are doing.

Our news

The MOOC will continue as long we get new people, and we think the best promoters are the people who have done it. Please have a think about which of your friends, colleagues and social networks should know about the MOOC, and send them to this link. Thanks!

Last month I published a white paper showing what a decentralised credit network would look like using modern technology and pointing out that such a thing could be built from the grassroots up and would be highly appropriate during a time of recession. Check out the 16 page pdf on the Credit Commons web site.

I've been working with Alumnus Pal Graabein on a new HTML5 media format for the MOOC, so that we can be more open source and interoperable and consistent. We have drafted up lesson 1, but all the slide contents need to be transposed by hand into the new format and beautifully arranged. I reckon anybody who is good at moving files around in windows explorer could do it. Would someone like to volunteer a few hours to do that?

This winter I read Felix Martin's book, Money: The Unauthorised Biography, and learned lots of new things! As a classical scholar he describes how money originated as a combination of the accounting systems in Babylonia and systems of social obligations in Greece, entirely avoiding slavery and conquest so prevalent in David Graeber. He also explains the origin of the bank of England very well, as a marriage of the Sovereign's need for credit with the need of commerce to issue credit with the ultimate backing, taxes!

Money & society news

The way that money works in society is changing all the time, now especially as the zero-interest regime is becoming the new normal. Mixed up in that discourse is the need to eradicate cash, and all the privacy and convenience that cash implies; obviously the banking system would collapse the moment everyone tries to withdraw cash because bank credit loses value. There are many arguments being made against cash but few for. Cash is expensive to handle, carries diseases, enables money laundering (by non-bank actors), and would be hoarded out of circulation if bank deposits have negative interest.

Yannis Varoufakis the former Greek Finance Minister, is very busy these days promoting a new vision for Europe. In this important article he says we should pick up Keynes' model for a global economy which was rejected at Bretton Woods.

UK do-gooder celebrities Joanna Lumley and Brian Blessed participated in an anti-cash PR campaign. The language is very interesting. Don't forget that credit card companies 'lose out' on 2-3% of the transaction value whenever we pay in cash. Here is a robust defence of cash from an Austrian perspective.

Catalonia is flexing its separatist muscles, here seen threatening to use its debt to the Spanish government as a bargaining chip, or even a weapon. Bloomberg calls it a game of chicken: if Catalonians defaulted their banks and cash machines would quickly lose access to Euros. To withstand such an attack they would need an alternative currency. Unfortunately the one we know about isn't getting much traction.

Not only Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece & Spain, Puerto Rico and Catalonia are having 'liquidity' crises, but Saudi Arabia is suffering from low oil prices. As a last resort, the government might issue IOUs, which some would say is what all governments should have been doing all along.

Finally here is an attempt to hack banking and money from a legal point of view. It will take you a good 10-20 mins to get the idea. References to 'off-planet helpers' aside. could there be any substance to such attempts? Does it depend on their ability to win something in court, or on their ability to create belief?

All for now,


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