‘Change money: change the world’ – Positive Money’s slogan not only sums up its aims, but shows how important the issue of monetary reform is. Francesca Wakefield went to the campaign group’s annual conference to hear about possible solutions
Ten minutes after Positive Money’s third annual conference opens and I’m sneaking my way through the already packed hall of people, following the smell of fresh coffee, but eager to get to my seat and to the answer to the question on everybody’s lips – just what are we supposed to do about this financial mess?
The trouble with money
Speaking to a sold-out crowd of nearly 300 people, director of Positive Money and Positive News columnist Ben Dyson explains that at the moment, 97% of our money supply is created by private banks as debt, leaving just 3% to be created by the Bank of England in the way most people assume all of it is – printed and minted as physical notes and coins.
The problems with letting banks create money in this way are manifold, but can be summed up by pointing to the recent financial crisis and our ongoing (double dip, triple dip?) recession – asset bubbles, inflation and an economy saddled with debt.
The solution? Don’t let private banks create money. Simples. Over the course of the day, the team from Positive Money drip-feed their solution into our waiting ears through talks, guest speakers and video footage from MPs and academics who support their cause, including Caroline Lucas and Herman Daly.
Instead of letting private banks create money, the Positive Money reforms would entrust the creation of any new money to an independent committee at the Bank of England, and also mandate a policy of ‘full-reserve banking’. This way banks can only loan out the same amount of money as they have in savings.
New money created by the Bank of England would be transferred directly to a government cash account and spent as any other government money would be – whether given back to citizens as a tax cut, spent into circulation through capital spending and wages, or used to pay down our ever-mounting pile of national debt.
Campaigning for change
But instead of just telling us what they think, Positive Money takes the opportunity to mine their audience for information. Through two breakout sessions, our hosts encourage us to brainstorm how they can best engage new supporters and make such complex ideas relevant to people’s lives.
It’s clear from the conference turnout that the three years of hard work Positive Money has already put into this campaign is definitely starting to pay off. And the movement is growing: Positive Money now has over 10,000 supporters on their mailing list – over 8,000 on Facebook and nearly 4,000 on Twitter. Local Positive Money groups are springing up all over the UK and across the world, from the USA to New Zealand.
Excited by the conference turnout, Ben tells us: “This is the biggest gathering of people that I know of, worldwide, that have come together to talk about this issue.”
2013: a turning point?
As the conference draws to a close, Ben declares: “this is going to be a really big year in pushing this [idea] out to people.” Indeed, thumbing through a copy of his new book, Modernising Money, on the train home, I become more and more confident that he might just be right.