Opting Out of the Corporate System New Zealand-Style

Living the Change: Inspiring Stories for a Sustainable Future

Directed by Jordan Osmond and Antoinette Wilson (2018)

Film Review

This documentary features activists from around New Zealand who have inspired their communities to begin making the necessary changes for a sustainable future. I know several of them personally and found it really gratifying to see their decades of effort (for many of them) acknowledged.

Among activists featured are Helen Dew and Phil and Sharon Stephens from Living Economies.* All three were instrumental in starting local currencies, time banks and savings pools in their own and other communities.

In the film, Helen speaks about the link between our debt-based economic system and environmental degradation. Sharon, in turn, speaks about the need for all of us to downsize our lifestyles rather than depending on resource depleting solar and wind technology to save us. Mike Joy, freshwater ecologist at the Institute for Governance and Policy Studies at Victoria University, Joy speaks about the urgent need to transform our food system away from monoculture cropping and the heavily reliance on fossil fuels that supports it.

Also featured are

  • Action Ecology founder Shane Ward
  • Te Mahi Kai, a school that uses Time Bank volunteers to teach children to grow and prepare their own foods
  • The Baywater Repair Cafe – where volunteers help community members repair bicycles, appliances, furniture and clothing instead of discarding and replacing them)
  • the Magarara Station (which practices and teaches regenerative farming) and various other organic and permaculture-based farms and Community Support Agrculture (CSA) schemes**
  • Leo Murray founder of Why Waste (which helps families and business with waste reduction projects. Replanting New Zealand (one of NZ’s many native tree replanting projects),

Non-Kiwi economist Charles Eisenstein introduces the film by explaining that collapse of our current economic system is inevitable, as it depends on infinite growth, which is impossible with finite natural resources. Given our economic system’s dependence on continuous growth, it will collapse once the wealthy elite has exhausted all the natural resources that can obtain easily and cheaply. According to Eisenstein, nearly all of us have a deep longing for another system that involves a greater connection to nature and to one another in community. It’s simply a matter of finding ways to act on those feelings.

*Living Economies is a NZ charitable trust, whose purpose is to educate and support Kiwis in finding alternatives to our current corporate-based economic system. See https://livingeconomies.nz/about/our-work

**Community Supported Agriculture is a system in which a farm is supported by local consumers who purchase prepaid shares in the farm’s output which they receive periodically throughout the growing season

The full film can be viewed on the Māori TV website for one more week: Living the Change




Savings Pools: Opting Out of the Banskters’ Money System


One way I’m opting out out of the debt-based Wall Street banking system, is by joining a local interest-free savings pool. A group of neighbors is investing their savings in a savings pool – rather than a bank – and to use the savings pool to loan money to one another. We’re using a model designed by the (New Zealand-based) Living Economies Trust. The model is based on the Swedish JAK members’ Bank, founded in 1965. The Jord Arbete Kapital (Land Labor Capital) Bank doesn’t charge or pay interest on its loans. With its loans financed solely by members’ savings, it operates outside of the Wall Street capital market.

As of November 2011, the JAK Bank had a membership of 38,000 and accumulated savings of 131 million euros. Of this 98% had been loaned out to members.

How Savings Pools Differ from JAK Bank

Savings pools maintain the JAK Bank’s tradition of interest-free transactions but differ from the Bank’s model in several respects:
• Savings pools are private arrangements between members with regular personal contact.
• Executive decisions are made by pool members themselves rather than a paid management team.
• Pool costs and charges are virtually zero.
• Each member’s savings are held in trust for that member – they don’t become joint property and can only be spent if the member agrees.

Our local savings pool meets monthly, and all savings pool decisions are consensus-based. Individual members may abstain on special loan proposal they disagree with by declaring their own balance unavailable for that specific purpose.

Tracking Savings as Dollar-Months

Savings are tracked as dollar-months rather than balances. In other words, pool statements reflect both the amount a member has contributed and the length of time they have made the funds available.

A member wishing to borrow other members’ money proposes a payment schedule and offers something of value as security to make sure the debt is covered. If the group agrees, the pool transfers to the borrower the loan amount and any balance the borrower may have saved. One month later, the borrower begins a series of installment payments, with half going to repay the loan and half going to reciprocate the pool’s contribution

When borrowers ask the pool to accept interest-free installment payments, it’s not enough to merely repay the loan. They must also make their own savings available for long enough to match the consideration other members have accorded them. This is called reciprocity.

The Advantage of Reciprocity Over Interest

Despite this reciprocity contribution, the amount repaid to a savings pool is always far less than the compound interest charged on a bank loan. With a mortgage, for example, the interest paid is usually more than the original loan. Although the borrower ends up with a house, they have nothing to show for all their interest payments.

In contrast, a savings pool borrower ends up with the purchased asset and savings, which may be withdrawn as soon as the loan agreement is complete.

Supported borrowing is also encouraged. Pool members may gift their reciprocity points to ease a borrowers reciprocity contribution

People wanting more details on the mechanics of savings pools can consult two excellent articles by The New Economics Party and Project Wairarapa

photo credit: occupy_Citibank_24_4_13_DSC_0121 via photopin (license)