Al Jazeera’s Take on China

The China Complex: The Big Picture – Part 1

Al Jazeera (2019)

Film Review

This two-part documentary traces historical and cultural linkages to China’s current authoritarian style of government. It features commentary by a range of Chinese experts on whether China’s policy of “stability at all costs” is good or bad for the Chinese economy and people.

In my view the series’s key weakness of is its failure to examine the dilemma China faces in suppressing violent dissent (eg the Tibetan, Uygher and Hong Kong separatist movements) that is aided and abetted by foreign powers (mainly the CIA). There is a vague mention at the end of Part 2 about the foreign powers behind the Hong Kong protests putting China in a “lose-lose” situation (ie they potentially lose political control if they do nothing vs losing face internationally if they crack down on violent protestors).

The second major weakness is the documentary’s failure to explore the role of China’s unique monetary system in its unprecedented economic growth. At present it’s the only global power in which the government issues most of the nation’s money by spending it directly into the economy (aka sovereign money). In other countries, private banks create the vast majority of money in circulation when they issue loans.*

The most pro-China of the commentators attributes China’s economic miracle to their “stability at all cost” (ie repression of dissidents and “hooligans”). I don’t believe this is true. Freedom from the massive public and private debt that plague most industrialized nations has made for much more rapid (public and private) infrastructure development in China.

Aside from these weaknesses, the documentary provides valuable insight into Chinese history and culture, topics rarely taught in western schools. Part 1 covers the period from the inauguration of dynastic rule by Yu the Great in 2070 BC to the 1989 Tienanmen Square protest. Most westerners are unaware that China was a major international power from the 4th – 18th century AD, with a vast trading empire and cultural influence extending well beyond its borders. Its subjects enjoyed prosperity equal to that to that of Europe prior to their colonization by England and other European power.


*In the US, UK and New Zealand, for example, government only creates 2-3% of money in circulation. 97-98% is created out of thin air (as credit) when banks issue loans. Even governments borrow from banks to pay for spending that exceeds tax revenue (the main source of government debt). See The Battle for Public Control of Money

 

Plenty of Money for Teachers’ Pay Claims

Guest Post by Don Richards

While there is sympathy for the plight of striking NZ teachers seeking better pay and conditions, the common belief is that there is no more money available. Nothing can be further from the truth if our Labour government followed the lead set by the first Labour Government in 1936.

Michael Joseph Savage’s Government used Reserve Bank Credit to finance the construction of state houses and vital infrastructure which injected millions of pounds into the economy and enabled New Zealand to emerge from the Great Depression sooner than most countries.

The Hansard record (page 157) of the parliamentary debate that introduced the legislation had the following quote from our then Prime Minister: “I was accused by the previous speaker of saying, during the election campaign, that we were going to increase wages, pensions, and the like. I plead guilty, and I want to know from the right honourable gentleman what else is worth living for?”

This 1930s election advertisement could almost apply to the current day as the then Labour Government built thousands of state houses with Reserve Bank Credit.

Returning to the 1930s, the injection of Government money into the economy put money in people’s pockets and freed up tax money to finance a Social Welfare system that became the envy of the world. Such a thing was unthinkable a mere three years prior to the introduction of the legislation.

While things have certainly changed since the 1930s, an IMF discussion paper titled The Chicago Plan Revisited, issued in 2012 endorsed a similar approach to that taken by our first Labour government. In fact, it went even further.

The IMF paper said that a system where the central Bank (our Reserve Bank) issued the currency would smooth out the boom and bust cycles, eliminate runs on the bank and dramatically reduce both public and private debt. In addition, it would provide productivity gains of 10% and steady state inflation would drop to zero.

We do not need to restrict the legitimate pay claims of our public servants. All that needs to be done is repeat what worked before and enable our Reserve Bank to issue credit for housing and infrastructure projects. A parliamentary petition, calling on the House of Representatives to consider such a move, is being circulated and you can access it at http://www.positivemoney.org.nz/Site/petition/.

Such a move will free up tax money for other purposes including providing our public servants with proper wages and conditions and stemming the tide of those leaving our shores in search of decent pay.


Don Richards is the National Spokesperson for Positive Money New Zealand which is part of the International Movement for Monetary Reform. The movement is committed to having a monetary system that works for society and not against it.

HR 2990: Historic Bill to Abolish the Federal Reserve

In 2011, to address the failed US recovery, former Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) and Congressman John Conyers (D-Michigan) introduced HR2990, the National Emergency Employment Defense Act. The bill proposed to abolish the Federal Reserve system and end the ability of private banks to create money out of thin air.* If the bill had passed, it could have instantly ended all federal deficits and debt, while simultaneously providing trillions of dollars for vital infrastructure and restoring funding to states and local authorities for education, hospitals, clinics, housing, police, libraries and other programs cut after the 2008 economic crash.

The late Stephen Zarlenga, founder of the American Monetary Institute and co-author of the bill, always found it ironic that in 2008-2099 the US Treasury “printed” between $3-15 trillion of new money (aka quantitative easing) – as HR2990 proposes. However instead of spending this government-created money into the economy as HR2990 specifies, they handed it over to private banks. They in turn used it to pay obscene CEO salaries and to inflate their stock prices by buying back shares.

Among other provisions, of HR2990 would

  • Dismantle the Federal Reserve and transfer its powers to a new Monetary Authority operating under US Treasury oversight.
  • Replace all Federal Reserve notes with United States Money.
  • Instruct the Secretary of the Treasury to create United States Money to address any and all deficits resulting from a discrepancy between tax receipts and funds appropriated for government services.
  • Subject to criminal and civil penalties any person [ie banks] who creates or originates United States Money by lending against deposits through “fractional reserve banking.”
  • Prohibit borrowing by the Secretary or by any federal agency or department, independent establishment of the executive branch, or any other instrumentality of the United States (other than a national bank, federal savings association, or federal credit union) from any source other than the Secretary.
  • Require the Secretary to begin to pay off all outstanding US debt payment in full in United States Money.
  • Prescribe requirements for the entry of United States Money into circulation.
  • Require the Monetary Authority to instruct the Secretary to disperse monetary grants to states for public infrastructure, education, health care and rehabilitation, pensions, and paying for unfunded federal mandates.
  • Direct the Secretary to make recommendations to Congress for payment of a tax-free Citizens Dividend to all U.S. citizens residing in the United States in order to provide liquidity to the banking system at the commencement of this Act, before governmental infrastructure expenditures have had a chance to work into circulation.
  • Prescribe requirements for federal funding of education programs, coverage of any deficits in Social Security Trust Fund account, a universal health care plan, resolution of aspects of the mortgage crisis, and a program of interest-free lending of United States Money to state and local governmental entities.

As Kucinich points out in the preamble to his bill, Article 1 Section 8 of the US Constitution places the power to create money in Congress. In 1913, Congress made the foolhardy decision to delegate this bower to the Federal Reserve system and private banks. Predictably the latter operate the US monetary system (and money creation) in such a way as to their profits – and not for the benefit of the American people. The result has been increasing economic instability, skyrocketing income inequality and growing power of private banks, such as Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan – to the extent they virtually control our so-called democratic system of government.

More information on the American Monetary Institute at their website: http://www.monetary.org/

Link to HR2990: HR2990

In the video below, Kucinich** speaks about HR2990 on the floor of Congress in 2013.


*Contrary to popular belief, the government doesn’t create the dollars in circulation in the US. The vast majority is created by private banks out of thin air when they initiate loans. See How Banks Invent Money Out of Thin Air

**Like Bernie Sanders, Kucinich was more of an anti-coproratist than a Democrat. He opposed military intervention in Iraq, Libya, Syria and the Patriot Act. As a presidential candidate in 2004 and 2008 he called for single payer health care, free education (including pre-school and university), instant run-off voting, a moratorium on GMO crops, withdrawal from the WTO and NAFTA, ending the death penalty and the War on Drugs and lowering the voting age to 16. He collaborated with libertarian Republican Ron Paul on a number of bills and currently serves on the Ron Paul Institute advisory board. He lost his seat in 2013 after the Ohio state legislature re-districted his Congressional District out of existence.

Fed Chairman Yellen Breaks 50 Year Taboo on “Helicopter Money”

yellen

At a June 15 press conference, Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen made the surprise announcement that the Fed “might legitimately consider” using “helicopter money” in an “all-out” effort to rescue the U.S. economy from a severe downturn.

“Helicopter money,” a term coined in 1969 by late economist Milton Friedman, is money government creates by spending it into the economy.

As economist Richard Murphy describes in The Joy of Tax, government has always played a role in creating money whenever private banks generate insufficient money (by issuing loans from money they create out of thin air) to maintain the smooth running of the economy. Following the 2008 recession, the Obama administration pursued a policy called “quantitative easing,” in which the US Treasury created $500 billion (out of thin air). Unlike “helicopter” money, quantitative easing provided these funds directly to private banks, hoping they would use them to generate more loans. This, in turn, was meant to stimulate business investment and job creation.

Although it probably prevented the US economy from collapsing, Obama’s quantitative easing did little to promote business investment and job creation. This was because the banks used most of these funds for purposes other than making new loans – ie buying back their stock (to increase stock prices) and paying obscene CEO bonuses.

In contrast, “helicopter money”, a policy that has been virtually taboo for fifty years, calls for a central bank to print money and spend it into the economy for social services, infrastructure development, or even a citizen’s dividend. The idea is to put the money directly into people’s hands – rather than using banks as an intermediary – as they are more likely to stimulate the economy by spending it.

As Murphy details in The Joy of Tax, libertarian corporatists obsessed with balanced budgets, government debt and austerity are largely responsible for the taboo against public money (aka sovereign money) that the government creates and spends into the economy. Their position is that only private banks should be allowed to create money – in most cases due to immense financial benefits (from interest payments) they derive from this type of money creation.

Ironically former Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke also raised the possibility of the US using “helicopter money” as a tool to stimulate a flagging economy in an April blog post.

And in a similar move , 18 Members of the European Parliament have written to European Central Bank (ECB) president Mario Draghi requesting that the ECB should revisit its opposition to using “helicopter money” to boost the EU’s deteriorating economy.

Land Value Taxation 101

The Taxing Question of Land

Directed by Yoni Higsmith

2014

Film Review

The Taxing Question of Land is a British documentary about Land Value Taxation (LVT), a concept first proposed by American Henry George in 1879 (see Progress and Poverty: a Suppressed Economic Classic).

The filmmakers use simple animated infographics to argue that LVT is an ideal solution to a global debt-based economic crisis, especially as nothing else has worked. I tend to agree, provided LVT is combined with a return to sovereign money.* So long as bankers retain the power to create money out of thin air, they will always tilt any taxation scheme in their own favor.

The basic definition of Land Value Taxation is a tax that captures a percentage of land value on an annual basis to cover public expenditures. In his 1879 book Progress and Poverty, Henry George’s main argument for Land Value Taxation is that it restores the Commons. This film focuses mainly on secondary arguments that revolve around fairness and economic equality.

The filmmakers point out that a property’s increasing value nearly always depends on its proximity to public services (ie schools, water mains, sewers, roads, public transport) paid for by taxpayers – making it utterly reasonable that taxpayers should claim a share of this increased land value. They describe LVT as a “tax shift,” rather than a new tax, as it would reduce and/or eliminate most other taxes.

They also argue

• That unlike income, corporate and sales taxes, LVT wouldn’t suppress production and jobs.
• That intelligently implemented LVT would eliminate the need for government borrowing (and debt) because it would raise sufficient revenue to cover all government services.
• That LVT would eliminate tax avoidance because unlike other wealth, land is impossible way to hide.
• It offers and fair and painless way to reduce wealth inequality as the rich start to share the cost of paying for public services.

They go on to list a number of jurisdictions (New South Wales, Hong Kong, Estonia, Singapore, Taiwan, Pennsylvania and Mexicali) that have significantly reduced other taxes by establishing an LVT.

LVT is also unique in its bipartisan appeal. In Britain, it has adherents belonging to the Greens, Liberal Democrat, Labour and Conservative Party. Conservatives like it because it simplifies the tax system.


*In a sovereign money system, the public (as opposed to private banks) maintains the sole right of issuing and regulating money. See An IMF Proposal to Ban Banks from Creating Money

The Steady State Economy Movement

Dietz_ONeill_Enough_is_Enough-201x300

Enough is Enough

Rob Dietz and Dan O’Neill (2014)

Free PDF download at steadystate.org/

Book Review

Enough is Enough is the report of the world’s first Steady State Economy Conference in June 2010. The concept derives from Herman Daly’s 1977 book Steady State Economy, published five years after the Club of Rome’s infamous Limits to Growth.

The 2010 conference was organized around two basic premises: 1) that the drive for unlimited economic growth is making the planet uninhabitable and 2) that transformation to a steady state economy is essential if we’re to have any hope of preserving the human species.

Enough is Enough begins by outlining why unlimited growth is impossible on a finite planet with finite resources. It goes on to define a steady state economy as having four key features: it’s sustainable, it provides for fair distribution of resources, it provides for efficient allocation of resources (i.e. it doesn’t rely solely on the free market in situations where the market can’t allocate resources efficiently) and it provides a high quality of life for everyone.

The authors focus on four basic steps essential in the transformation from a growth-based to a steady state economy:

1. An agreement to limit resource use – renewable resources (eg forests, fisheries) are harvested no faster than they can regenerated and non-renewable resources (eg fossil fuels) are consumed no faster than the wastes they produce can be recycled. There are a number of possible policy tools for making this happen: an outright ban (similar to current fishing bans), ecological taxation (eg carbon taxes or oil extraction taxes similar to Alaska’s petroleum tax), cap and trade (sets an overall cap and auctions off permits to pollute or mine up to that cap) and cap and share (sets an overall cap and distributes free permits to pollute or mine among all citizens).

2. Population stabilization – through non-coercive population policies that balance immigration and emigration and provide incentives to reduce family size. Examples include increasing access to birth control and education and full equality for women.

3. Inequality is reduced through policies that encourage worker cooperatives, employee ownership, shareholder participation, gender balance in positions of power, a Universal Basic Income (see The Case for Unconditional Basic Income), a cap on pay differentials between workers and management and progressive taxation schemes.

4. Monetary reform – in addition to prohibiting banks from creating money out of thin air and transferring the power to create money to a public authority, there needs to be more promotion of local currencies to stimulate local economies.

5. New progress indicators – substituting something similar to the Human Progress Indicator (HPI), which measures environmental and human well being, for Gross Domestic Product (GDP), which merely measures money.

6. Commitment to full employment – we need to use automation to eliminate onerous and unemployment work, rather than eliminating jobs, as well as shortening the work week (in conjunction with a UBI) to enable more people to have jobs.

7. New attitudes towards business and production – we need to incentivize businesses to achieve “right” sized profits that are large enough to guarantee a company’s economy viability but not so large they exceed its ecological allowance.

8. Global cooperation over resource use – we need to agree all trading partners wind down growth simultaneously. Otherwise steady state economies could experience significant trade disadvantages.

9. New consumer behavior – we need to promote new values that emphasize the positive aspects of a steady state economy (community connectedness, friendship and creativity) over the competitive individualism, hedonism, status and achievement that are emphasized in a growth economy.

10. Engaging politicians and the media (which will be the hardest) – by doing more research and analysis of the steady state model, creating forums to engage the public, politicians, policy makers and academics and to working for small changes at the local community level.
Rob Dietz is the European director of the Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy (CASSE). More information about CASSE at http://steadystate.org/

In the video below O’Neill talks about their book.

 

An IMF Proposal to Ban Banks from Creating Money

(This is the fourth of a series of posts about ending the ability of private banks to issue money.)

For the past 18 months ago, IMF economists Michael Kumhof and Jaromir Benes have been circulating a proposal to end the ability of banks to create money.

As Kumhof explains in the Nov 2013 video below, the perception that governments create money is totally false. In the current global economic system, only about 3% of money (mainly coinage) is created by government. The other 97% is created by private banks out of thin air when they generate new loans. See Economic Justice: the Rolling Stone Version

For various reasons, which Kumhof explains in the video, he and Benes believe that unlimited and unregulated private money creation by banks is responsible for the current economic crisis. And that full recovery is only possible if the privilege of creating and controlling the money supply is restored as a government function.

In addition to assuming sovereign control over the money supply, national governments would also require banks to hold 100 percent reserves for the loans they initiate. This effectively terminates the ability of private banks to create money out of thin air. And this, in turn, massively reduces their political power.

Ironically, the proposal isn’t new. Entitled the Chicago Plan, it was first put forward by University of Chicago professors Henry Simons and Irving Fisher during the Great Depression.

The History of Private vs Sovereign Money

During the Q&A at the end, Kumhof briefly discusses previous experiments with government-issued sovereign money, which have mainly occurred in the US. Sovereign money funded the original 13 colonies, the American War of Independence and the Civil War.

In their paper The Chicago Plan Revisited, he and Benes trace the history of sovereign money back to the ancient Greeks and Romans. During the Middle Ages and Renaissance, all currencies were publicly controlled (by kings and the Pope) until 1666, when Charles II transferred control of money creation to private banks with the English Free Coinage Act of 1666.

The slides, which are difficult to see in the video, are available here

For me the high point of the video is Kumhof’s disclaimer that he doesn’t represent the IMF – that he’s only doing research. Yeah right. I sure wish I had an understanding boss who let me run around making radical proposals to strip investment banks of their power and wealth.

It seems more likely that people in high places know the ship of capitalism is going down – that this is a last ditch effort to save it.