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140929 Dermot "Positive Money at the Crossroads"

Page history last edited by Peter Verity 5 years, 10 months ago


Date  29/9/2014 Facilitator Steve
Time  19:00 - 21:00 Secretaries Peter
Location  Quaker Meeting House  Type of meeting Meet-up


(add yourself if missing)

13 people present, two for the first time


Table of Contents



Introduction and Campaign Update

presenter: Peter/Steve


Peter welcomed people to the meeting, and commented on the changing nature of the campaign. With an election next year, the focus is moving away from raising general public awareness, to educating our MPs about our debt-based money system. This brings differing political views to the fore.


Steve described the recent Positive Money 'retreat' in the Lake District. There were 26 people present, from a surprisingly wide range of backgrounds, plus the core team from London. A discussion platform has been created for those who attended, which might later be opened up to a wider audience. An observation was made during the retreat about how the Scottish referendum had encouraged people to put their differences aside and come together under a single SNP banner; a parallel could be drawn with the Positive Money campaign. On the other hand, if the independence vote had got through, the SNP might have found itself breaking up as people moved on to the next thing, which would bring out real differences.


Steve also attended the recent talk by Randall Wray about MMT (Modern_Monetary_Theory) - this led to some discussion, which I have combined with the discussion below.


Talk and Discussion : "Positive Money at the Crossroads?" - Politics and single-issue campaigns

presenter: Dermot Smyth


Dermot introduced himself as a retired FE lecturer, and a member of the Socialist Workers' Party (but speaking in his own capacity, as a long-standing supporter of Positive Money). His talk posed six questions, which the group subsequently discussed in open forum.

The slides of Dermot's talk can be downloaded here 140929 Positive Money at the Crossroads.pptx


The summary below includes some of the points which Dermot raised in his talk, plus the points raised during the discussion (the discussion was wide ranging, and not necessarily in the sequence I have recorded it below!).


Q1. Will the narrow focus of PM remain a strength?

The consensus was that campaigning around a single issue is a strength. It ties us together, allowing us to rise above divisions. On the other hand, it can hide real differences which should not be ignored - we might be fighting for the same thing for quite different reasons.


Some people felt strongly that PM should not become political.


Q2. If 'yes', what types of relationships might the PM campaign benefit from in future?

Is the focus too narrow? There are many other groups with parallel aims (though with different emphasis). Should we join with them?


There are probably 1000s of single-issue campaigns, all worthy of support, but they are all linked. This needs to be addressed by PM centrally.

Most campaign websites have a long list of links to other organisations, this is curiously lacking on the PM website. As PM gets bigger and more mainstream, there will be more disagreement as to what we support.


Should we make formal alliances around issues such as TTIP? 

This led to a lengthy discussion about TTIP (See this blog article for more on TTIP). Dermot had been shocked to discover what is being negotiated - it will accelerate privatisation of the NHS and schools. His view was that it is likely to get through in spite of vociferous opposition from grass roots campaign groups, and the Green Party. Financial Services are currently excluded from TTIP, though the City of London is fighting to get them included - this would make any banking reform virtually impossible.


Embracing other groups is risky; we should get them to subscribe to PM not the other way round.


There was support for making stronger links with economics/politics students, who are currently being brainwashed in Austrian economics. We should support the Manchester and Sheffield [and other] groups that are questioning what they are being taught.


Q3. Should PM address its wider economic and political environment?

Several political views were expressed, and no real consensus on where PM stands politically.


The Tea Party in America is strongly in favour of banking reform, allied to a rejection of 'fiat' money and a return to 'sound money' principles. How do we feel about that? Note - this is an example of a political group embracing monetary reform, not the same as PM taking a political stance.


There was some discussion about UKIP and whether we should come out of the EU - but we should not equate UKIP with the Tea Party.


PM proposes creation of money by the 'state', which some people regard as strongly Socialist, though PM tries to avoid saying how the government should spend the newly created money. It was pointed out that "nationalisation" is not the same as "socialism".


It was observed that PM do make quite an issue of inequality, but reducing inequality is not just a question of changing the money system - it's possible now but not happening.


In answer to a question about whether the PM solution would enable the deficit to be eliminated, Peter replied that he had estimated between £40bn and £80bn could be created each year while retaining stability; this falls well short of the deficit which is currently over £100bn so there would still be some shortfall.


Why is there so little interest in banking reform among the hard left? Possibly they do not want to form any alliance with organisations that they see as reformist, and that fail to address the underlying problem of capitalism.


Q4. Should we make negative statements about the opposition?

[The discussion covered both political and economic differences - I have put the 'political' arguments in Q3 above, and the 'economic' arguments in Q4 here]


It was suggested PM should address opposing economic arguments, but not get involved in political ones.


There was much discussion about MMT (Modern Money Theory), which might be considered an "opposing" view (or at least a different view of the same problem).

  • MMT firmly supports "fiat" money creation, and has a strong Keynesian aspect in that it argues that the government can always create enough new money to ensure full employment, without negative side effects, and so MMT is regarded as well to the left of PM.
  • MMT largely ignores private bank lending, as it treats credit/debt within the private sector as cancelling out - this was disputed, the money and the debt have independent existence and affect different groups of people. It's not zero-sum
  • MMT and Positive Money share a belief that state-created money is necessary 


There was also discussion about 'Austrian' school economics which rejects fiat money.

  • The Austrian school believes money should be linked to (or consist of) gold
  • The 'Free-banking' school of thought believes in privately-created forms of money, such as Bitcoin, instead of state-created money.
  • Other private forms such as local currencies and LETS (Local Exchange Trading Systems) were discussed. MMT says these will always remain small, because a currency gets its validity through taxation. However neo-liberals want to see a much smaller public sector anyway and reduce taxation levels.


The Lawful Rebellion group was also mentioned, which has a scheme (the Bradbury Pound) similar to Positive Money, but which appears to have political affiliations.


Q5. What should we say about those who agree with PM banking reform - but as part of a larger package that protects contradictory features of the capitalist system?

Dermot observed that a number of neo-liberals support Positive Money eg. Steve Baker (Con) and Douglas Carswell (now UKIP) who are both Austrian School free-market supporters. He suggested that there are many high-powered people who would like to reform banking to 'save capitalism'.


Should we go along with 'populist' parties, to get more people interested in banking reform? Should we reject neo-capitalism which might mean slower growth of the movement?


Q6. What should we say about direct action movements? For example Occupy?

There are other groups that have a much stronger direct action focus, eg. Occupy, UKUncut, 38degrees. There was some support for Positive Money being more visible on the streets.


Dermot's conclusions (by email after the meeting)

  • very pleased with the debate, it didn't turn into a slanging match!
  • the 'crossroads' have not yet been reached for any further political positions to be adopted
  • endorsement of direct action by PM in the short term might be useful


Next meeting

The next talk will be a "back to basics" talk, given by Peter, and entitled "Debunking banking"

Mon 27th Oct





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