Print Your Own Money


90 Responses to “Print Your Own Money”

  1. amgunn says:

    It’s wonderful to see candid economic analysis on Boing Boing. I wish more people could understand that the purpose of the Federal Reserve system is to extract wealth from the economy via inflation (a hidden tax on your money).

    Two comments I would like to make. While localized currency systems do exist in real life, they are pretty limited (frequent flyer miles). The federal government doesn’t appreciate when people mess with their revenue stream, see the raid on Liberty Dollar for an example:

    Finally, there has been and always will be a truly competitive currency that is both localized and international, is a fantastic store of wealth and is not able to be inflated by any government. Gold has been a true reserve currency since the beginning of time and will continue to be superior to any fiat currency produced by any government.

  2. NoneMoreBlack says:

    It appears that you’re placing the onus for an enormous variety of (perceived) ills on central banks. So your entire thesis boils down to advocating free banking, but with a Klein-esque anti “corporate” vitriol rather than the analytically rigorous Austrian approach?

    And while I won’t delve into a nuanced critique of this brand of quasi-Marxism, I have to take issue with “Capitalism (in addition to being a lot of other things) is the way people get rich simply for being rich.” This is nonsense. Interest accrues to capital for the same reason that wages accrue to labor; it is a productive factor which is scarce, and must be rationed.

    Somebody who supplies capital to the market is being compensated for, amongst other things, the risk they are taking, the opportunity costs of foregone consumption (which is all that savings is), and the transactions costs of moving that capital around. Do you have a savings account? By this fallacious and shallow definition of “capitalist,” then, you are one too.

    Lots of modern thinkers are criticising capitalism and economics in interesting, insightful ways. Can we move past Marx please?

  3. ZzeusS says:

    Local Currency in Long Beach..

  4. danegeld says:


    “I don’t pay interest on my salary. Tax, yes. What are you talking about?”

    What he’s talking about is that unless you already held enough money to buy everything outright on day one, if you set up a new business you will pay interest on the loan you need to go buy the new equipment, renting office or factory space, and paying the staff between them starting work and making the first sales.

    If it’s really expensive to borrow money, (or if money isn’t ever lent) then companies have to pay the full set-up costs at the beginning of a new venture, which potentially stifles things, because saving the full cost beforehand will delay the start.

  5. arikol says:

    Very interesting post.
    I do agree with a poster above that the frontpage posts should be shorter with a link from the frontpage but please keep those long posts coming.
    Interesting thoughts, as we know the current system isn’t a good permanent solution and we need to find a viable replacement as well as a way to implement it.

    I think that even the hardest of us european lefties will admit that marxism is not a way forward. Heck, even decent social-democrats seem to have problems.
    The current western system is not a good solution because of things you mention but also, I believe, because it is based on expansion.
    Any slowing of expansion is likely to crash parts of the system, which is not good for anyone (well, mostly not).

    So figuring out a way to run society without NEEDING fast expansion is probably a way forward.

    How to do that?
    No idea.

  6. ill lich says:


    Whoa there brother– don’t think for a second that all the blame is on the borrowers. The banks (i.e. “professionals”) should have also known that loans based on some magical imaginary future value of the house was essentially gambling; both Newton and Adam smith could tell you “what goes up must come down.” They convinced a lot of borrowers to take those mortgages with the convincing argument that it wouldn’t matter that their loan payments were going up, as the value of the house was going up, and they could just resell the house and make a profit. Plus there were bonuses involved in selling as many of these sub-prime mortgages as possible. Everybody was looking the other way because of the money signs in their eyes. Several pundits have pointed out that nobody is without blame here, and I tend to agree (and I would fault the so-called professionals at the bank more than the delinquent homeowners– you know what you are getting into with a loan shark, but banks are supposed to be trustworthy legal institutions).

    However this is only tenuously related to the post at hand, which is about the idea of “printing ones own money”, so don’t change the subject.

  7. wat_is_up says:

    The link to Bernard Lietaer’s book is not a complete book, only bullet points. Is this book free? If so, please point to the correct location.

  8. william says:

    Doug, I share your suspicions of the origins and effects of the modern system, but if you understand how the modern economy works, you’re not demonstrating it very well.

    For example, take, “Where does that money [to pay back a loan] come from? Someone else who borrowed.” Although that’s possible, that’s not usually the case. Suppose I lend you three bags of seed corn in the spring, in exchange for four bags in the fall. Do you get those bags for me by borrowing? No, you grew it. You created value. And that’s what should happen with any business loan: you use the capital to increase your power to create value, and then give part of the value to the person who helped you out with the dough.

    I’m all for changing the system we’ve got, but to do that effectively, you must first understand the system we’ve got, and show how your plan is an improvement.

  9. billy68 says:

    @#74 ‘time preference’ is one of many neo-classical kludges. it’s an observation, not an explanation. even the proponents of the idea couldn’t agree on what drives it. try this for a quick (if slightly misapplied) counter-argument:

    and there’s a good recent post on brad delong’s blog on the difference between ‘consumer’ time preference and the operation of the markets.

  10. kirkjerk says:

    Call me pollyanna, but I would be surprised if this current blurple really is the endgame of centuries of modern capitalism.

    Some of this probably comes back to the old “the problem is overpopulation”. We’re “successful” as a species in a way only bacteria and insects seem to match, and it’s gonna be tricky to keep that. (And yeah, juxtaposed w/ the declining birthrates of rich nations, you wonder what the balance will be)

  11. jackm says:

    Wow. What a fascinating article!

    I’m surprised no one has mentioned Sharia law or Torah rules against usury.

    I suspect scholars of these respected religions noticed fairly similar conclusions to Rushkoff’s back in their respective eras, and included scriptural clauses in the Qur’an and Torah which forbade the charging of interest. Since these texts survive more or less unchanged today, these doctrines are still enforced on the handling of money among orthodox members of both religions.

    Interestingly, one of the big side-effects of recent war and money-based international incidents in the West has been the rise of Islamic bank accounts in dozens of banks and lenders worldwide. Examples include banks in Indonesia, Thailand, Australia, the Middle East (of course), France, and the UK. Basically, everywhere but the USA.

  12. cmonsour says:

    This point makes a lot of historical and economic claims, and while I certainly see the aesthetic appeal of Mr. Rushkoff’s ideas, that alone does not make them true. Modern systems of credit markets and fractional reserve banking have a lot of theory backing them up, and if you want to challenge them, you do need to actually engage with the theory. Perhaps that’s what your book is for. But I hope that there is more to the analysis than a sort of joy in the “Boing ethos” propped up with self-confirming anecdotes about the Renaissance.

  13. zippy314 says:

    Boing-boingers may want to check out to read about a meta-currency platform that is in development.

  14. helesp says:

    If you consider this an interesting article, you should definitely have a look at our KashKlash


    a lively platform about future scenarios in an alternative economy, and also try out our questionnaire.

  15. william says:

    @SamSam, #37: The only way I can figure it is that the gold bugs and other hard currency nuts don’t quite understand the modern system, and the bits that they do understand scare them.

    I think part of the problem is that people don’t have much experience with creating systems of arbitrary units. When they count, they count concrete things, and it freaks them out to trade concrete things for a virtual thing with imaginary units. Ignoring that it works for, as far as I know, every country on the planet.

    It’s like crossing a bridge that you can see through. It works just as well, and can have significant engineering advantages. But for people who are nervous to begin with and keep looking down, they work themselves into quite a lather.

  16. austinflack says:

    An interesting history lesson, but I would like to point out a few of the difficulties that might arise in a ‘local currency/barter/trade’ economy.


    1. Many of us have neither a patch of fertile soil nor an appropriate skill or trade that would be of much use to us in a local economy, especially considering…

    2. The vast contraction of capital required in such an economic transition. I doubt many people would be willing to pay me to edit videos when they were busy trading homegrown gourds for dental care.

    3. Due to my now scare resources, what follows is an abridged list of products and/or services I would never again purchase/use/donate to: music, movies, dry cleaning, books, expensive sandwiches, funny t-shirts, iPhone applications, African charities, McSweeney’s publications, international travel, and those breakfast biscuits at Starbucks (probably a good idea anyways)

    4. Our new lifestyle, while impressively communal and exceedingly sustainable, would be marked by a drastic reduction in standard of living, perhaps so drastic as to outweigh all of the net gains such a local commerce utopia might entail.

  17. OM says:

    “I think if a Boingboing post goes more than 2 or 3 paragraphs….”

    …Yet another reason we shouldn’t mollycoddle those with short attention spans. More essays, please!

  18. william says:

    @Pyros: I subscribe to Boing Boing mainly for quick links to quirky, interesting, and funny things. It’s a nice break from other stuff. I usually feel about the longer posts the same way I feel about the cross-marketing of BBTV: It’s their site, so I’ll put up with it, but if more creeps in I’ll eventually either unsubscribe or write a filter.

    That’s not to say I’m not interested in the occasional long post, but there are other places where I get my fill of that. And many of them are thoughtful enough to summarize it in a paragraph and then link to the full article, so that I can quickly decide whether or not to read it.

  19. vonmises says:

    Fractional-reserve banking is The Emperor’s New Clothes brought to life. If you set someone down and explain how it works, they invariably go through a range of emotions, usually ending with amazement that it’s legal. But of course it is legal, since government and its special interests (ie, not you) profit greatly from it. How can a bank loan money it doesn’t have, and then consider that debt as additional assets with which it loans even more money out? It truly is no different than printing money, except of course those paper slips are IOUs propping up a (global) economy.
    It’s stuff Ron Paul had been talking about for decades, but no one wanted to listen until it’s too late. Well, when the US government nationalizes the banking industry in order to keep the ship afloat for another decade or so (until unfunded entitlements like Social Security finally break the bank), it is too late.

  20. onefreeliberal says:

    “I wonder if anyone has any links to good descriptions of the relationship between the Treasury and the Fed? Not just an overview, I’ve got all that, I’d like to know more about the details of how they interact, the process by which government securities are written and sold, etc.”

    The single best resource for the WHOLE story is a book called ‘The Creature From Jekyll Island: A Second Look At The Federal Reserve’ by G. Edward Griffin. I promise you that reading this book will change the way you see your world. It’s no boring economics book either, it’s a real page turner.

    Find it here:

  21. Pyros says:

    How terrible that someone writes something as thought provoking as this post, and people complain about it being too long. I hope DR ignores this, and that a few people write in to support how the author chooses to express himself. To those who dislike the longer posts: no one can make you think if you don’t want to, but please do not attempt to stop others from doing so if that is their preference. Please try to be a little bit open minded and tolerant of something that may be a little different than what you are used to.

    To his post:

    What I take form DR is that the universe is actually made out of clay which we can shape as we wish so long as we are able and willing to discard our mind-forged shackles. It really amounts to deep optimism.

    Once you put yourself in the mindset of possibility, you quickly come to realize that the world could be a much better place than it currently is. The greatest crimes ever committed are crimes against our own imaginations.

  22. zuzu says:

    I’ve written on BB about currency competition / complimentary currencies on several occasions — particularly with regard to this inflationary crisis coming to a head in recent years whenever people ask “what’s the alternative?” or “what can we do about it?”.

    The “Left” (as much as I hate to invoke the bogus left-right political spectrum) always seems enamored with LETS. However, it doesn’t really solve anything… at least none that a credit union doesn’t already, and it still has many of the same problems as our existing financial system — such as book-entry settlement (i.e. centralization). In short, it doesn’t address the fundamental analysis of a monetary system, and why money has emerged spontaneously, historically.

    Instead, I’ll offer two points to consider:

    1.) Denationalisation of Money: The Argument Refined (An Analysis of the Theory and Practice of Concurrent Currencies Series by Friedrich A. Hayek

    2a.) Tim May’s e-money cypherpunk / crypto-anarchism argument
    2b.) David Chaum’s DigiCash strong cryptography digital currency minting algorithms
    2c.) Robert A. Hettinga’s digital bearer settlement argument (that book-entry incurs significant transaction costs)

    Ok, as a bonus, The PayPal Wars goes into how high-minded ideals were compromised in a “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” plotline.

    Analysis of Linden Lab’s virtual economy in Second Life, with their Linden Dollars, is an exercise left to the readers.

  23. Isaac Cates says:

    “Usura is a murrain…”

  24. billy68 says:

    Great post. Good to see somebody talking about the underlying mechanisms instead of recycling financial market jargon. Yes, it’s our money that pays for their profits, and this crash came because, as it turned out, they couldn’t screw us quite as hard as they gambled they could. Now the US and UK governments are bailing them out with our money anyhow, because they’re enmeshed in the same system.

    The gold standard isn’t the answer. I would love to see the kind of anarchist solution that Mr. Rushkoff proposes succeed, but last time I checked the revolution had been indefinitely postponed. In reality using the power of democracy to end the state-sanctioned wealth-grab and counter the parasitic power of corporate capital is probably the best hope we have.

    As Brecht famously almost wrote: ‘What is the crime of robbing a bank, compared to the crime of founding one?’

  25. Alex Mingoia says:

    I want to remind all the conspiracy theorists that the federal reserve does not make money from printing it. The interest the government pays to borrow money from the Fed is paid back every year minus expenses for printing the money.

    I don’t see how they make money from printing it. Also, what would be the incentive for me to loan you money unless I had some sort of financial motive or guarantee? Interest on loans makes perfect sense to me…

  26. Secret_Life_of_Plants says:

    I like long posts — but I also like them more if they are accompanied by a picture — best of both worlds!

  27. Super Nate says:

    Things may not be that peachy at the moment. But I’m confident that the tales of total apocalypse are way overboard.

    And watch out for bad legislation, the stock market may have created Black Tuesday, but it took an act of congress to create the Great Depression. To see the effects of an attempted legislation of a local economy, look at the magical success of Smoot-Hawley.

  28. zuzu says:

    The “Left” (as much as I hate to invoke the bogus left-right political spectrum) always seems enamored with LETS.

    NoneMoreBlack said it better:

    It appears that you’re placing the onus for an enormous variety of (perceived) ills on central banks. So your entire thesis boils down to advocating free banking, but with a Klein-esque anti “corporate” vitriol rather than the analytically rigorous Austrian approach?

    And while I won’t delve into a nuanced critique of this brand of quasi-Marxism, I have to take issue with “Capitalism (in addition to being a lot of other things) is the way people get rich simply for being rich.” This is nonsense. Interest accrues to capital for the same reason that wages accrue to labor; it is a productive factor which is scarce, and must be rationed.

    For anyone not already familiar, c.f. time preference / time value of money

  29. chris farrell says:

    vrythng n ths rtcl s s lghbly nd grgsly ncrrct tht y my s wll b lvng n prlll rlty. s nthng hr tht s tr.
    Stck t wrtng n tch r whtvr sbjct y ctlly hv knwldg f.

  30. Engine Here says:


    I agree. A localized economy is almost inherently obsolete in a globalized society.

    By neccesity it requires people to tailor their professions to ones that are worth trading goods for to their immediate community, which essentially ends research/development jobs.

    Am I going to trade a portion of my corn crop to someone for the prospect of him curing a disease?

    Localized connotes immediate return on investment; here is your widget, now give me my widget.

    There is a reason we have evolved from this.

    Again, interesting read anyway.

  31. rushkoff says:

    FYI – I’m happy to do shorter posts or intros here, and then write the “full” essays on my own site.

    Then again, I’m not sure how many more biggies I need to do now that I’ve introduced some of the main ideas. I’ll try to keep them shorter if it clogs up the site too much. Or maybe I can program them to preview a first paragraph and then ‘click to unfold’ for those who want to read the whole things.

  32. zuzu says:

    I’m surprised no one has mentioned Sharia law or Torah rules against usury.

    IIRC, which is what spawned something like corporations / money pools (such as are currently popular in the Korean-American immigrant community) to facilitate trade and investment during the Islamic golden age.

    Basically, credit is lent by command-and-control of committee rather than through the monetary system. (Think of the end of It’s a Wonderful Life for an example of the latter; “Your money is in Bill’s house” and all that.)

  33. a frozen says:

    Best boingboing in 2 years. mstrpc f stpd.

  34. andyhavens says:

    There are many problems with our current financial system, sure. And the history of how we got here has got to (like that of all modern issues) go through some rough and creepy times. But advocating throwing out the system that created the largest, fastest economic growth for the most people in the history of the world is, well.. odd.

    You say: “This engendered competition for money, which was now a scarce currency issued at interest, instead of a local currency as abundant as the year’s crop.”

    Problem is, local currency *is* only abundant as the year’s crop, which can end up being zilch if the local weather is bad or the local folks screw up. Zero “crops” then means zero dollars, right? Which is OK because you can just expand the definition of “local” to encompass the folks next door who will…. uh… loan you (’cause you got no money)… corn? (they grew corn, though your land is better for rice) for no interest because… they uh… like you? Or maybe they think you’ll give them back some rice (er, corn) after you stop living in a doomed (NO LA) weather district or stop screwing up.

    Borrowing money with interest can be seen two ways, depending on your attitude:

    1. It’s a gamble for the borrower that favors the lender, since they have money and if they lose some, well, no big shakes for them.

    2. It’s the borrower’s belief that he can do more to improve the world with a loan than the lender can do with the interest.

    I go with #2. I like driving my car. It helps me get to work, do errands, have fun. I believe that the interest I pay on the loan is less valuable than the use I get out of having the car now. Same for my mortgage. Saving $100,000 for a house might take less time than paying off the mortgage on the same, but while I’m saving… I’m living in a crappy apartment and my future house is getting more expensive.

    Borrowing money is a gamble that you can make the future better. National financial systems let us spread the risks of that gamble across a much wider system of weather and foolishness.


  35. Rindan says:

    I know I am a little late to the game, but I think there are some things that people miss pretty squarely when calling for localization movements. Notably, some stuff is some complex that you can’t localize it. I work in a facility that makes MEMS. That accelerometer in your Wii or your air bags? Yeah, if that breaks it is probably my fault. The technology is absurdly complex. It requires massive amounts of capital, an army of specialist, and a whole lot of people just trying to keep the tracks on the rails.

    This stuff doesn’t localize.

    The facility needs to draw in world wide resources in the form of people and capital to operate. On top of that, it takes countless other facilities doing tiny pieces of work all around the world to (chip design, equipment design, equipment building, supplies) to keep chugging out a tiny little accelerometer that you need to squint to see (and even then, you are actually only seeings is package).

    This stuff REALLY doesn’t localize.

    When I hear calls for localization, no offense, but I think of a bunch of organic food hippies and artist. These jobs localize great, and I have no real problem with localizing these jobs as far as is practical. When it comes to the rest of the world though? You better be prepared to give up on modern society all together if true localization is what you are after. Places like Boston are dead ghost towns in the world of true localization.

    Personally, I love and enjoy being an engineer. I like working on MEMS. If some local hippies want to grow their own food and sell it to me, great. If they want to sell me a book or some music, awesome. If they want me to pick up a rake and hoe and piss away my mind because we have abandoned industrial projects that can’t be done in a 100 mile radius… eh, I’ll pass. “Local commerce” is fun for vegans, artists, poets, and unskilled labor. For everyone else… well, unless you like shoveling dirt or making things for people who shovel dirt, it isn’t all that fun.

  36. codesuidae says:

    Great article. Good discussion too. Monetary systems are fascinating.

    Somebody mentioned “Money Masters” already, but nobody has mentioned the shorter “Debt as Money”, which is much shorter and more concise, with significantly less pen-waving.

    I wonder if anyone has any links to good descriptions of the relationship between the Treasury and the Fed? Not just an overview, I’ve got all that, I’d like to know more about the details of how they interact, the process by which government securities are written and sold, etc.

  37. Anonymous says:

    @SamSam (#38 post)

    The difference between the dollar and gold/silver is that the dollar is a piece of paper the Federal Reserve creates. It has no real value and is virtually created out of thin air, just like all fiat money.

    Gold/silver has rarity and a lot of hard work goes into mining it out of the ground. A single dollar costs pennies to print.

    When a new dollar is printed by the Fed, your dollar becomes less valuable (inflation). This is how the price of goods/services go up, and how the banking elite steals from the rest of the working class.

    I find it ironic that the dollar bill, that we spend so much time trying to get more of, is made of the same material we wipe our asses with.

    End the Fed!

  38. Anonymous says:

    Congrats on a wonderful article explaining a bit about our fiat currency. To those of you who think interest is necessary for these banks in exchange for the “risk” they take by lending, learn more about fractional reserve lending. There is no risk involved with lending out NOTHING. Also bear in mind that fractional reserve lending is used by every bank, whether it is lending to other banks, or to you.

    By the time the money reaches your bank account, it has been chiseled out of virtually nothing. It’s about time people started addressing this issue as it is the #1 cause of this current financial crisis, above all.

    Further still, the rules of fractional reserve lending have been loosened for the big US banks the last few years, causing things to accellerate, devaluing YOUR savings into worthlessness.

    Given the current state of the economy, it is important that people understand these issues. Kudos to BB and the Author for printing this WHOLE article, and not just an easily ignored headline or synopsis.

  39. shutz says:

    So, what is being advocated here, essentially, is for us to put all our management consultants, all our Bankers, all our Marketing Executives, all our Telephone Sanitizers, basically all our middlemen, into some sort of spaceship. Call it a ‘B’ ark, if you will.

    And then we fire that off into space, and hopefully it’ll crash onto some other planet, where they can found their own civilization, and we can go back to some form of barter economy.

    Some say this has already happened before.

  40. J Vivs says:

    Fascinating read… can’t wait for more posts and the subsequent comments!

  41. william says:

    @HereticGestalt: I wasn’t patronizing everybody who disagrees with me. I was answering somebody else’s question, and I think I answered that person civilly.

    However, I’m perfectly willing to talk down to hard-core gold bugs, hard currency nuts, Randites, biblical literalists, anti-vaxers, Maoists, LaRouchites, or any other sort of fundamentalist. That’s because they spend an awful lot of time refusing to understand what’s actually going on, either because they don’t like it or because it’s too subtle for their tastes.

    That doesn’t mean I’m intrinsically opposed to hard currencies, or to talking about them. I’m open both to the idea and the discussion. But I’m not interested in talking with people who can’t demonstrate an appreciation for multiple sides of a topic, as it never goes anywhere.

  42. themindfantastic says:

    Regarding short vs long posts, I believe (maybe the background gears of BB do not allow for this however) that you can start with a regular BB sized post, and have the actual ‘entry’ be longer if people click on the entry (where all the comments can be read as well) it would say something to the effect of “Click to Read More” or something to that effect so that people who which to skip past posts they are not interested in (or that simply intimidate them) won’t take up screenspace, and take that extra second to scroll past. Personally I welcome our New Long Post Overlords, I usually HATE the fact that a posting whets your appetite and then ends oooh picture of SteamPunk! Something more essay like is much more crunchy, fills the mind expanding it just a little… and gives the collective neurons a chance to work on something. Essays will promote more diversive discussion, and thus flaming/trolling, but its a wild and rocky world we live in.

  43. ill lich says:

    If I imagine people actually “printing their own money” I see nothing but problems, even in a local and relatively insulated community. It wouldn’t be long before someone counterfeits that script and corrupts the system (even if just a few bills at a time). Even if it’s just a very localized system of IOUs and the honor system I see trouble– “Ted” gives me an IOU for 10 bushels of corn, however in the winter when the corn runs out that IOU is now worth more than the original ten bushels of corn (or rather, that corn is worth more than what I originally gave Ted in barter for it), AND if Ted dies, my IOU is worthless (like a bank failing).

  44. karengeier says:

    Paper money was invented by the Chinese in the end of the 8th or the beginning of the 9th Century AD.

  45. manicbassman says:

    The big boys made their billions and got off the money-go-round at the right time… they found plenty of mugs to buy the debt off them and then started talking the market down… they’re now poised in the wings with the big rescue plans that will enable them to hoover up very valuable assets for just pennies on the dollar. You see, all these mortgages still have to be serviced… they won’t allow the little guys to welsh on them and the big boys will be there to buy up massive amounts of property at distress sale prices as the people who can’t service their debts are forced to sell up. You ain’t seen nuthin’ yet… things are about to get even uglier with the big downturn in spending having a massive effect with layoffs everywhere.

  46. HereticGestalt says:

    @William: With all due respect, an uncritical examination, however thorough, of the ideologically tainted orthodoxy used by those who profit from the current system to justify their exploitation is not the same as “understanding”.

    Patronizing anyone who disagrees with you, when your only contribution thus far has been to non-specifically imply your superior familiarity with the system’s mechanics, is a little pathetic.

    Referencing what small point you’ve actually made, I would argue that the bridge is not merely transparent – it’s made of putty. In modern day financial markets, money is an entirely abstract entity, whose relation to actual productive capacity is defined in a similarly arbitrary way by the will of the state – which is largely in bed with the financial marketeers!

    The facts of the situation are that real assets – houses – are out in the real world, there are people who want to sell them, and most of those sellers are also looking to buy a replacement. This is the actual free market for real goods, and it is frozen in place by the vast cumulative transaction costs levied by the speculative apparatus: interest, inflated prices, inflated currency, etc. This matrix of imaginary and artificial costs has served, empirically speaking, to redistribute wealth to a concentrated upper class, and is made possible entirely by the abstract and state-monopolized nature of modern currency.

    The problem, even for the upper class expropriating all the value, is that the imaginary value of the systems massively exceeds actual capacity, especially in the United States. A collapse is inevitable and necessary. Unfortunately, the threat of police violence from the government, which backs the wealth-controlling class, will prevent ownership of real assets from returning to actual economic producers distributed across the class spectrum.

  47. Avram says:

    JackM @13: included scriptural clauses in the Qur’an and Torah which forbade the charging of interest

    The Torah doesn’t forbid the charging of interest in all circumstances, just to other Jews. (Deuteronomy 23:19-20 NIV — “Do not charge your brother interest, whether on money or food or anything else that may earn interest. You may charge a foreigner interest, but not a brother Israelite, so that the LORD your God may bless you in everything you put your hand to in the land you are entering to possess.”)

    The Talmud also makes a distinction between charging interest (ribit, or “increase”) and usury (neshek, or “a bite”). And there are prohibitions against using interest to take advantage of the victims of misfortune. But there’s no blanket prohibition on lending money at interest.

  48. danegeld says:

    Having one currency is useful in the same way that having one language is useful. Open source wouldn’t be nearly as effective if each region wrote in their own dialect of code and we all needed to translate at the boundaries.

    The real problem is the lack of oversight that modern banks financers enjoyed, permitting them to create almost arbitrary amounts of debt.

    A clear example of this is the building societies in the UK started as mutual help organisations to let “working class” people own their own properties. They were safe but not as profitable as other banks.

    A couple of years ago, they offered a “dividend”, a bribe of about £800 a customer to convert to a bank and follow the goal of making money for money’s sake at the expense of their customers. They started buying foriegn assets which turned out to be grossly mispriced and a number of ex. building societies are now bankrupt.

    If they’d bought mispriced local assets with a local currency, they could also go bankrupt, just that kind of mistake would have been harder to go unnoticed for so long.

  49. jdaviescoates says:

    Check out

    We’re planning to launch a currency for The Hub network on a similar basis to the Totnes Pound, the Lewis Pound, Berkshares etc. :)

  50. maximusmaximus says:

    I was upset about regular money so I made my own economy. There are three denominations. Beer, Coffee, and Food. I am giving it away. It’s most similar to a gift-economy. If someone redeems one, I will send them three times the value. I would be happy to send you some for free. I’ve given out about 20,000 or so and have about 25,000 left. Enjoy!!! the site is

  51. jdaviescoates says:

    Oh, and how could I forget: (lots of good downloads attached to that page) and

  52. Engine Here says:

    #42 ILL LICH

    I agree, not all of the blame is on the borrowers. But there is a certin responsibility you inherit by signing something without reading the fine print.

    I read that the government allowed a half dozen banks to leverage their debt ratio’s from a standard 6:1 or 12:1 to as high as 40:1. I think all but one of those banks has since gone under.

    And it was obvious that these individuals working for these Adjustable Rate Mortgages firms are not bright. A frien’s company shares an office park with one of them. When you see kids with highschool diploma’s driving Buggatti’s selling something, you know there is something awfully suspicious. I akin them to cellphone jockey’s at the mall, or Army recruiters. But it’s still on you to understand what you’re signing.

    The only reason I felt it pertinent was that DR seems to basing his entire argument on Bush ruining the economy by convincing people to buy houses, and forcing banks to give people money to do it.

    I just see it as another bubble bursting. Real Estate crash in the late 80′s, tech burst in the late 90′s, and now lenders in the 00′s, not the “neccesary endgame to the scenerio.”

    Speculative as it is, I still found it interesting.

    Thanks for the feedback.

  53. bcallahan says:

    The money does indeed start at the top with the federal bank but that are so many paths it takes to get to you that we sometimes forget all of the options. I, for example, have been funding working capital loans for businesses nonstop for the past month.

    Businesses need to break the habit of looking to brick and mortar banks for credit. There is a reason those institutions are closing their doors and private lenders like me are opening ours.

    Check it out at:

  54. slamorte says:

    this is one of the best boing boing posts, ever.

    please, carry on in this thread. less happy plastic crap, more happy mutant post economic collapse armageddon survival tips. seriously.

  55. Red Zebra says:

    @37 & 45 re: gold vs printed money.
    Surely the difference is that there is a finite amount of physical gold, whereas money in a fiat currency can be printed at will by the government. If I own 1% of gold I will always own 1% of gold, whereas if I own 1% of cash, and the government arbitrarily decides to double the amount in circulation, I now own just 0.5% of all cash (and they have the other 0.5%). Or am I missing something???

  56. william says:

    @Rindan, #81: Fantastic comment! I totally agree.

  57. billy68 says:

    @#13 – the prohibition on usury is in Christian doctrine too (Christ, moneylenders, temple, etc.) and was enforced – though unevenly – in Europe till the late middle ages (Notre Dame cathedral was part financed by a usurer’s indulgence).


    ‘Interest accrues to capital for the same reason that wages accrue to labor; it is a productive factor which is scarce, and must be rationed. Somebody who supplies capital to the market is being compensated for, amongst other things, the risk they are taking, the opportunity costs of foregone consumption (which is all that savings is), and the transactions costs of moving that capital around.’

    That is mostly nonsense, mixed with neo-classical apologies. First, scarcity affects momentary price (allegedly, though there is no watertight theory of this that matches reality) – and it doesn’t justify interest. Second, nobody should be compensated for taking a risk. They take a risk, it pays off or it doesn’t, that’s the nature of risk. Third, the costs of foregone consumption only apply in an inflationary market.

    Yes, capital is a productive factor. But no, it is not like labour, and interest does not accrue to it in the same way that wages accrue to labour. None of this ‘just happens’. It’s a result of the way our political and financial systems are constructed.

  58. Antinous says:

    On the issue of longer posts – one of the ideas behind guest bloggers is that they do things differently than the regular Boingers. I would hate to think that BB readers are the sort of people who go to the same restaurant and order the same meal every week.

  59. ill lich says:

    “I read that the government allowed a half dozen banks to leverage their debt ratio’s from a standard 6:1 or 12:1 to as high as 40:1. I think all but one of those banks has since gone under.”

    That’s a pretty obvious poke at the government (Bush’s government for pretty much 6 straight years– and it’s almost always the GOP that is pushing for deregulation). Bush didn’t “force” banks to give people money (and I’m not sure that’s exactly Rushkoff’s argument), rather by deregulating (or just ignoring the rules), the government made it acceptable to do overly risky things; Bush was just a mouthpiece promoting the risk as some kind of “right.”

    Maybe it is just another bubble bursting, the nature of capitalism’s boom-and-bust life cycle, but various forces within government and banking (the DEMs are not wholly without guilt either) ignored past wisdom and allowed the bubble to get too big; a recession we can handle, a “depression” well. . . the last big one wasn’t particularly fun and it took drastic measures to stop the bleeding.

  60. Falcon_Seven says:

    Today the Federal Reserve, which is the central bank of the US, lends money to commercial banks, savings and loans, thrifts, and credit unions in the US at the prime rate. Other banks lend money to each other for the purposes of doing business at rates determined by the LIBOR. Banks lend money to businesses and individuals at rates that are determined by their interest cost. The printing of money or the issuance of currency has nothing to do with the current ‘crisis’ in the U.S. financial markets.

    Bush, for all his obvious faults, did not tell banks to make bad mortgage loans. (He also isn’t the first President to make ‘home ownership’ part of administration policy. He did not tell the Fed to raise or lower interest rates, he simply allowed the Fed to continue with policies of the Clinton administration by making cheap money available. So he’s guilty because he’s stupid -but we knew that already.) Greedy real estate agents and mortgage companies like Countrywide, that saw a sea of ‘cheap money’ being available, made those bad loans. The idiots at ‘Freddie MAC’ and ‘Fannie MAE’ bought up those loans and packaged them into CDOs -that were insured by the dumb-asses at AIG- and they sold them to brokerage firms like Merril, Lehman, and Bear Stearns who thought they could unload them on unwitting investors, like your pension fund managers, and turn a quick buck while the cheap money was still around.

    Unfortunately none of those ‘creative and talented’ people saw the so-called ‘credit crunch’ coming. When the Merrills and Lehmans got a glimpse of the future they figured that they were too leveraged to take the hit so they started to hedge with oil. So they keep buying futures and bidding up the price without any thoughts as to how that would affect the underlying economy. Then the ‘Oh, shit!’ moment comes when they realize that they are forcing the price of gas and diesel and heating oil and food and clothing and air fares and who-knows-what-else through the roof because we’re so dependent on cheap energy to make our economies run, that people who shouldn’t have qualified for that $400,000 mortgage on a $50,000 a year salary with $20,000 of credit card debt and they can’t pay their mortgage so they go into default, but they couldn’t stop hedging because it was covering their risk and the percentage of CDOs that were becoming worthless as they watched.

    Then the talking heads at CNN, Fox, and MSNBC got involved and couldn’t shut up with the ‘credit crunch’ bad news and the ‘conspiracy’ word and the ‘speculation’ word about oil prices. Once those idiots were in it, somebody in D.C. took notice and got together with the SEC and they said in a public statement somewhere back in June or early July, “Quit f*cking with the price of oil or we’ll put a stop to it for you.” That’s the point at which oil prices dropped by almost $50.00 dollars a Bbl and their liquidity took a dump. Nothing to protect the downside and they couldn’t see the bottom from where they were.

    So what to do now. The mortgage lenders got greedy. Fannie and Freddie were stupid. The Wall Street losers were greedy, stupid, and they lied to the SEC when they were questioned about their liquidity -they even had the testicular fortitude to ask for greater debt to liquidity ratios. If you want to print your own money, go ahead. You might as well put your own face on it so it’s easier for the Secret Service to track you down and arrest you. Better yet, put Rushkoff’s picture on it, so that when they kick in your door, you can tell them in your best Flip Wilson impression, “Rushkoff made me do it!” Then they can arrest him, too, for being so naive about general economic principles.

    Or you could call your elected representatives and tell them to tear into those clowns at the Fed, the SEC, and those ‘creative and talented’ people on Wall Street, by putting some real regulatory teeth into this ‘bailout’ proposal so that stupid sh*t like this doesn’t happen again. Because you know what people, the money that the BEP prints and the Fed distributes, is not the government’s money, it’s our money.

  61. zuzu says:

    What makes the value of gold any different from the value of paper money? Gold has no intrinsic value in and of itself. One day a gold nugget is worth five chickens, the next it is worth seven cabbages. Just like the dollar.

    You can print an unlimited amount of money, but there’s only physically a finite amount of gold on Earth (and nearly all of it has already been discovered). That’s the difference. You can’t print more gold to cover your debts.

    Also, there’s no such thing as intrinsic value. c.f. the diamond-water paradox

  62. bobolikebeer says:

    @ –> #23 “Chris Farrell”: You’re very angry for a poetry blogger… hmmm…

    @ –> Rushkoff: Enjoyed the essay, would prefer a linked teaser from the front-page. Don’t stop writing the essays though!

    @ –> Horde of Localist Mutants: I may be a fool, but I am struck by an overwhelming sense that there are other reasons, good and ill, for our current monetary system… reasons other than simple, conspiritorial greed. Yes, money is all virtual/imaginary/backed-by-nothing/etc., but It seems to be working pretty-damn-well as systems go. Yeah, a lot of economies are circling the outhouse right now, and it’s true that the non-wealthy are suffering more than the wealthy (surprised!?), but I really just can’t support the idea that it’s all because of some bankers’ conspiracy. To what end? So the bankers can gather a bunch of money which they know better than anyone else is worthless?

    I don’t think that any simple motives like pure greed, or simple plot-twists like plutocratic conspiracy, can serve as useful tools in examining this awesome and crazy thing we humans have fallen into.

    On the other hand, most of what I know about money comes from this most-excellent, conspiracy-theory-laden movie. If you want to know about fractional reserve spending, interest, inflation, etc., all with an X-files meets Mythbusters meets Alternate History look and feel, check it out.

    The Money Masters:

  63. SamSam says:

    @ 49 HereticGestalt:

    In modern day financial markets, money is an entirely abstract entity, whose relation to actual productive capacity is defined in a similarly arbitrary way by the will of the state

    No it’s not. If I’m selling a junky house and I price it at $500,000, no one will buy it. This is because it’s not worth what $500,000 is worth. What is $500,000 worth? Well, it’s worth 500 $1000 vacations, or 36 lbs of gold, or 200,000 gallons of milk.

    The price of my house will then be set by what it’s worth in these other terms. And when it finally sells for $50,000, that’ll be because it’s only worth 50 vacations, not 500.

    You can say that the state will suddenly halve the worth of the dollar, but whether or not it can actually do that, it can’t halve the worth of my house, and so it’ll still be able to be bought or sold in dollars because a dollar still represents some proportion of a vacation, ounce of gold or gallon of milk.

  64. Red Zebra says:

    An interesting alternative to capitalist economics might be participatory economics (abbreviated as “parecon”). This system is designed to reward personal effort and sacrifice rather than inheritance, intelligence or the amount one owns. It includes a system participatory politics, in which individuals can directly influence decisions that impact them. See

  65. wolfiesma says:

    A large contraction in the economy does not mean that there will be no more scientists and doctors. Maybe there will be fewer jobs, fewer multinational corporations (hopefully not due to mass consolidation!) and more people being supported on fewer wage earning jobs. Less consumption, more resourcefulness and learning to get by with less. Possibly multigenerational families will be living in the same houses again as the fallout from the financial crisis comes home. Bankers may have to retool themselves as small merchants, teachers, government workers, or grocery store managers. Real estate is going to need to come down, so people can afford rent. Big houses might get subdivided for multiple families. Who knows.

  66. SamSam says:

    @ 52 & 55:

    If I own 1% of gold I will always own 1% of gold, whereas if I own 1% of cash, and the government arbitrarily decides to double the amount in circulation, I now own just 0.5% of all cash (and they have the other 0.5%).

    You may own 0.5% of all the cash in the world, but not 0.5% of all the value in the world.

    You either have to say that the world’s value will never increase, or you have to accept that the value of gold will be subject to gross inflation, much more than dollars.

    If we double the number of tractors in the world, either we have to accept that we can never buy half of them, because the amount of gold will never increase, or we have to accept that our ounce of gold will only be able to buy half a truck, and so eventually gold will become worthless.

  67. billy68 says:

    @#55 you’re right when you say that no commodity has an intrinsic value. the proof of the flaw in the gold standard is the blindingly obvious one – the world already abandoned it. gold is just another commodity. there is no standard, nothing fixed or invulnerable in the current market. and that’s not some gloomy prediction but simply a statement of the nature of the system.

  68. danegeld says:

    The trouble with gold is there’s only a finite amount of precious metal available.

    eg. money represents other people’s time taken in farming food, making a product and so on.

    We’d expect the value of things to stay roughly constant, and to fall when a new production mechanism can provide the produce more efficiently.

    If the population grows then the amount of available man-hours goes up, so we can make more things in total, but it takes the same effort.

    The amount of gold coins to represent the effort can’t grow at the same rate as the population, because someone has to find the gold out of the ground and the easy-to-extract gold has already been taken.

    Using gold, there’s massive, artificial deflation of the value of all products versus gold.

  69. RussNelson says:

    wow. What an amazingly non-insightful essay. So, okay, when the crop rotted, that caused the money to decay so that people would then spend it. How is that any different from the inflation imposed by the Fed?

    Answer: it is COMPLETELY THE SAME.

    There is a solution, called Free Banking, but Doug makes the case for it very badly.

  70. zuzu says:

    SamSam, I think you’re confused on the consequentialist outcomes of a fixed money supply. The issue most people worry about is deflation, not inflation. i.e. that gold becomes increasingly more valuable the longer you hold onto it (because it chases after an ever growing amount of goods/value).

    This rewards savers, rather than creditors, which puts power in the hands of people rather than the Gosplan of the central banking system and credit raters.

    Furthermore, competitive currencies alleviate these deflationary pressures. There are other commodities or financial baskets which can be created to trade in parallel with gold for transactions.

    However, the problem with fiat currency combined with the monopoly power of government (via the exercise of force, i.e. the centralized banking system) is culminated in Gresham’s Law: bad money drives out good money.

  71. ill lich says:

    I don’t see local economic systems (like LETS) solving all our problems. A lot of this seems like an Anarcho-libertarian pipe dream to me; it’s a good fantasy, but short of an apocalypse I don’t see it being instituted, and is that really how you want things to play out?

    I would prefer that the current economic system be overhauled to level the playing field and stop abuse, and discourage greedy gambling. Of course maybe that’s a pipe dream too.

  72. Anonymous says:

    I really need to thank this site. Because I have a printer and i need m.o.n.e.y ! ! !

  73. SamSam says:

    I’ve never understood the appetite that Ayn Rand and Ron Paul and other odd ones have for gold.

    What makes the value of gold any different from the value of paper money? Gold has no intrinsic value in and of itself. One day a gold nugget is worth five chickens, the next it is worth seven cabbages. Just like the dollar.

    But that aside, as others have mentioned, bartering and local economies can’t exist in our modern, globalized society. The Boston Public School system is not going to pay me for the educational software I write in chickens, nor I’m I going to accept Anchorage Dollars for when my software is used over in Alaska.

    It’s a lovely post-industrial ideal that many people live in (the same people who love steam punk, btw), but once we’re all down to local economies, bartering and living off the land, we’re never going to have time to check BoingBoing anymore — and no one will be paid to write articles — and when where will we be?

  74. freeyourcrt says:

    “I don’t see how they (the Federal Reserve) make money from printing it”

    You might also wonder how banks make money from initiating loans of someone else’s money.

    This is a great topic and so much of our lives are at the mercy of the money trust. It should be said that the framers of our constitution thought that fiat money was a big no-no. You might ask yourself what were they so afraid of.

  75. Era says:

    Although I agree with your direction, your arguments show signs of being poorly thought out.

    By the time the person or business who needs the money gets it, they’re paying an awful lot of interest – so much, that it amounts to a drag on their ability to do business.

    I don’t pay interest on my salary. Tax, yes. What are you talking about?

    The only way for banks – who run such an economy – to make more money is to lend more out. So they looked for more borrowers, as well as more places to park their cash. As a result, the things you and I depend on in the real world became investment vehicles.

    So the banks, who run this economy, limit their own options for making money? Are they the perpetrators of the system, or victimized by it?

    By the way, you use the phrase “make money” even though it is part of the mythos of the system you are condemning. People don’t “make” money, the banks do–by printing it. You are unwittingly perpetuating their dogma.

    Homes, oil, resources…you name it. So the costs of all these things went up not because of any real laws of supply and demand, but because they had become new classes of investment.

    The costs generally go down due to innovation–the prices, in terms of money, go up, due to more money chasing fewer goods. I.e., supply and demand.

    A wise man once said: the best way to undermine a cause is to defend it with bad arguments.

  76. help i cant comfirm my username themelonbread says:

    a Melonbread translation of

    #23 posted by chris farrell , September 23, 2008 10:21 AM:

    “You, sir, ARE WRONG! :{ You have no idea what you’re talking about :{ I have no obligation to add anything to this conversation, but you MUST hear me say how wrong EVERYTHING about the OP was :{“

  77. prokrasX8 says:

    What we witnessed over the past decades has been the necessary endgame of the scenario.

    Here is a link to a thorough and heartfelt overview of our current situation, focused mainly from the 1970s forward – America sheds the cape. It ties together many of the geopolitical components of our foreign policies which have been utilized to postpone the “endgame” of this system.

  78. minTphresh says:

    i knew i bought that new color laserprinter for something!

  79. zuzu says:

    But that aside, as others have mentioned, bartering and local economies can’t exist in our modern, globalized society. The Boston Public School system is not going to pay me for the educational software I write in chickens, nor I’m I going to accept Anchorage Dollars for when my software is used over in Alaska.

    The thing to remember about the emergence of money as a social coordination system is that it really is just “advanced bartering”. Money is a “medium of exchange”.

    As for not taking Anchorage Dollars… would you be just as opposed to receiving payment in Euros, or Yen, or Renminbi?

  80. OM says:

    …You know, I wouldn’t turn down a $3.50 bill with Xeni’s picture on it :-)

  81. RussNelson says:

    @53: pls g hm nd pt sm c n yr brn. Clrly y r fvrsh nd nt thnkng clrly. D sm rdng n “tm prfrnc” nd cll m n th mrnng.

  82. Mondak says:

    I hear a lot of complaining regarding the recent transactions in Washington and Wall Street. The words “greed” and “regulation” seem to be there a lot. Ultimately though, the problem is that we have a non-objective system of money. As the author mentioned, the “crown” takes a piece of every transaction run through its money supply. With an objective system of money real goods back up each note. This allows something like gold to back up the money, but some of the things the author linked to are good ideas on how to get us out of even things as large as our current problems as well. Thanks for the insightful post.

  83. jphilby says:

    “And then we fire that off into space, and hopefully it’ll crash onto some other planet …Some say this has already happened before.”

    I’d not only say it happened before, I’d say that some(thing)one out there got mighty PO’d about it and sent THEIR financial experts to US.

    Certainly ain’t nothing human about the vampirous bloodsuckers that have stiffed us all.

  84. KWillets says:

    If money is backed by grain, then grain deposits eventually grow ergot, the ingestion of which leads to theories like this. That’s how capital is formed!

  85. justONEguy says:

    The value we place on money is a collective delusion. (This piece of paper is worth x, because we say so.)

    Rather than advocate the printing of one’s own money, why not just advocate bartering which dispels the delusion value system altogether?

  86. Engine Here says:

    nd t b fr, t hs lwys bn th “rght” f vry mrcn t b hmwnr, xcpt prhps hrng th Prsdnt sy t gv dlsns f grndr t ths wh cldn’t ffrd t.

    “Ww, th Prsdnt sys t’s th rght (Rd: nt rspnsblty) f vry mrcn t wn hs!

    Lt m g t th bnk tmrrw nd tk t ln tht hv n chnc f mkng cnsstnt pymnts n. Why? Bcs nw t’s dscrmntry fr bnks t dlv nt my prsnl lf, nd f thy dny m ths $400,000 mrtgg vn thgh my hshld ncm s $75,000, ‘ll cry vctm. t’s my RGHT!”

    nd nw t’s nt th bnk’s rght t vct y frm hs thy wn, bcs y’v bn mkng lss-thn-ntrst pymnts fr 2 yrs, nd nw th bnk s frcng y t ctlly pt dnt n th prncpl? Mst sck whn yr pymnts g frm ndr $1,000 mnth t $2,500 mnth. Tht’s wht hppns whn y brrw mr thn y cn ffrd. Jst b hppy thy rn’t ln shrks, thn y’ll hv mdcl blls n tp f ll f tht.

    Nthng ggrvts m mr thn ppl wh nvr sm t b t flt, n mttr hw mch th ns f rspbsblty s wrttn n thr fc.

  87. rtr says:

    Good conversation. A couple salient points:

    Economics and trade exchange is all about comparing the subjective value of apples to the subjective value of oranges.

    In a free market, people will produce things that are valued. Money is valued. Paper money is only artificially scarce because of government interference in the market prohibiting competition.

    In a free market paper money would be non scarce would be copied until it became worth very very little. This is why gold has value. Gold is a real scarce good. You can’t stick a gold nugget into a copy machine and multiply it to your hearts content; you can do exactly that with fiat paper currency.

    Using fiat paper currency makes as much sense as using grains of sand as currency. Thus, the paper fiat monetary system is fundamentally unstable, not established by the free market, and only held together by the promise to use the power of violence to tax in the future. A free market competitive currencies monetary system would eliminate fiat paper currency the same way washing machines eliminated cleaning clothes by banging them with sticks in a stream.

  88. kiki1971 says:

    holy long posts!

    I’d like to see some more digestible posts from Rushkoff. For instance, a couple paragraphs of synopsis…with links to more details.

    I think if a Boingboing post goes more than 2 or 3 paragraphs….then it defeats the purpose of posting (as it becomes too long to blog-digest). A nice longer post every now and then is great…but a blog instead a newspaper column….or a journal article.

  89. Pierre Slinkeaux says:

    Wonderful ideas. All we have to do tho is abolish the Fed, bring back the gold standard, and take notes from Mr. Knothaus:

  90. onefreeliberal says:

    Great article with many salient points. I’ve been thinking about the money issues in this country (and the rest of the world) for a very long time now. There are tons of good ideas out there for a decentralized monetary system, but Charles Eisenstein has written up one of the best. See the links below for his two part article on Reality Sandwich.

    Part 1:

    Part 2:

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