One of the more complicated, mostly unresolved issues facing most commons is how to assure the independence of commons when the dominant systems of finance, banking and money are so hostile to commoning. How can commoners meet their needs without replicating (perhaps in only modestly less harmful ways) the structural problems of the dominant money system?
Fortunately, there are a number of fascinating, creative initiatives around the world that can help illuminate answers to this question – from co-operative finance and crowdequity schemes to alternative currencies and the blockchain ledger used in Bitcoin, to reclaiming public control over money-creation to enable “quantitative easing for people” (and not just banks).
To help start a new conversation on these issues, the Commons Strategies Group, working in cooperation with the Heinrich Böll Foundation, co-organized a Deep Dive strategy workshop in Berlin, Germany, last September. We brought together 24 activists and experts on such topics as public money, complementary currencies, community development finance institutions, public banks, social and ethical lending, commons-based virtual banking, and new organizational forms to enable “co-operative accumulation” (the ability of collectives to secure equity ownership and control over assets that matter to them).
I’m happy to report that a report synthesizing the key themes and cross-currents of dialogue at that workshop is now available. The report is called “Democratic Money and Capital for the Commons: Strategies for Transforming Neoliberal Finance Through Commons-Based Alternatives,” (pdf file) by David Bollier and Pat Conaty.
You could consider the 54-page report an opening gambit for commoners to discuss how money, banking and finance could better serve their interests as commoners. There are no quick and easy answers if only because so much of the existing money system is oriented towards servicing the conventional capitalist economy. Even basic financial terms often have an embedded logic that skews toward promoting relentless economic growth, the extractivist economy and its pathologies, and the notion that money itself IS wealth.
That said, commoners have many important reasons for engaging with this topic. As we put it in the Introduction to the report, “The logic of neoliberal capitalism is responsible for at least three interrelated, systemic problems that urgently need to be addressed – the destruction of ecosystems, market enclosures of commons, and assaults on equality, social justice and the capacity of society to provide social care to its citizens. None of these problems is likely to be overcome unless we can find ways to develop innovative co-operative finance and money systems that can address all three problems in integrated ways.”