The following report appeared in the October 2004 issue of Prosperity.
Alistair McConnachie reports: The eighth annual Bromsgrove Conference was held at Barnes Close, outside Bromsgrove, from late Tuesday 12th to Thursday 14th October, and broke all the records — the most attendees, 42, the most new faces (almost half of everyone there), the most speakers and the most people staying for the duration.
Attendees began to arrive late Tuesday afternoon and the Conference kicked off on Tuesday evening with organiser, Alistair McConnachie welcoming everyone and introducing the theme for the Conference: "Breaking the Monopoly of Credit".
He addressed the responses, which had been received from both Labour and Conservative MPs regarding EDM 323 and noted that the response from the Treasury was almost identical to the response received to the previous EDM 854 (See Prosperity, March 2004, p.2) while the Shadow Chancellor was misunderstanding the EDM (September ’04, p.1).
As Alistair explained: "Rather than increasing the money supply for the sake of it, Money Reformers advocate that we change the basis upon which a proportion of money comes into society. We are making it cost-free, instead of an expensive burden on the taxpayer."
Even though the responses were disappointing, they were heartening because "they indicate clearly that at the very top of the ladder — The Treasury and the Shadow Chancellor’s Office — there is no intelligent opposition to our ideas!"
Bromsgrove Convener, James Gibb Stuart, spoke next and announced that he is working on a new version of his book Fantopia, which will continue the tale of the land which creates its own money. Draft copies were circulated.
William Krehm, the Director of COMER, the Committee on Monetary and Economic Reform — and all the way from Toronto — was next and presented a paper which addressed the problem of global speculation especially related to "derivatives".
Wednesday morning began with a minute’s silence for money reform campaigner Boudewijn Wegerif who attended Bromsgrove in 2000 and had spoken in 2001. He passed away on 21 August 2004 after a lengthy battle with cancer, and it was noted that he had always remained a strong and valued supporter of our Conference and network.
Canon Peter Challen began the Wednesday sessions with a round-up of the past year’s developments. He emphasised the "structural sin" inherent in our economic system, a "’suicide economy’, which is in decay, not an economy which values people and the planet."
In this regard, moral values, and immorality, are also found in the functioning of the economy — a fact sometimes overlooked by organised religion.
Each talk lasted for around 25 minutes, with 20 minutes for questions and discussion.
Next up was campaigner Philip Snow who spoke about his efforts to educate and mobilise Pensioner Groups around the idea of Money Reform. He had found pensioners to be a very receptive audience, with the life experiences to appreciate the message. On Friday 15th October, Philip was back on Radio Stoke (see September 2004 issue), talking about the Bromsgrove Conference!
John Rogers, a Project Co-ordinator with the Wales Institute for Community Currencies spoke on the practical application of community currencies (CCs). He noted that CCs were a growing movement and he was especially involved in Time Banks.
He explained that a Time Bank was "a currency with values written into it, which sees people and communities as assets, values reciprocity, redefines work and builds social capital by rebuilding trust in communities and putting a new value on volunteering."
The challenge is to integrate CCs into the mainstream and he was "convinced that monetary reform and complementary currencies need each other in ways we haven’t even begun to figure out yet."
After lunch, Claire Faucet, Corporate Structures Researcher for campaigning group Corporate Watch, introduced its latest research which has been condensed into a booklet entitled Corporate law and structures: Exposing the roots of the problem — £1.50 in stamps from Corporate Watch, 16b Cherwell Street, Oxford, OX4 1BG.
The root lay in the fact that the law provides companies with rights and protection originally intended for human beings, yet frees the companies from the responsibilities and liabilities which individuals face. In some cases this leads to the irresponsible pursuit of profit to the detriment of society and the environment. The challenge was to re-invent corporate structures, so they could be held to account by society. A start, it was suggested, would be if meetings between MPs and Corporate Lobbyists were minuted and made public, in order to provide greater transparency.
Connie Fogal, anti-corporate lawyer and Leader of the Canadian Action Party (CAP), and Bromsgrove’s furthest travelled participant — all the way from Vancouver — spoke next.
Her topic was the struggle to promote the Money Reform message in Canada. She noted that legislation on the Canadian statute book already made it easy for our reforms to be implemented and it was "a dereliction of public duty" that our elected officials continue to subject the people to the present debt-based money system.
Further, although her Party was small, it was determined, and she had noted that its presence on the ballot and in the political arena had ensured that the other parties now felt it necessary to engage the Money Reform analysis.
Before the CAP arrived on the scene, Money Reform was a dead issue, but the CAP had forced it such that others were sitting up and taking note. This indicated the importance of political campaigning. Parties will move to a perceived threat!
She emphasised that we need to ask leading questions which can get people thinking about the money system. For example: "How is Canada going to be able to pay off its national debt?" and "Why do we only have such a small amount of notes and coins in circulation?" and "Where does this money come from?"
She noted that "Money rules the world, even more so than corporations. Our decision is, are we going to be masters, or are we going to be slaves?"
Rosamund Stock, a researcher at the London School of Economics, spoke next about some of the psychological insights to consider when presenting our message.
She advised to keep in mind that people are part of a system and often dependent upon it. We need to consider their function in the system and address them in the manner they can comprehend. "Ideology is most powerful when it is part of the wallpaper," she said. "Most people like to be right and they do imagine that they are doing the right thing."
Audrey Miller of the Jubilee Debt Campaign introduced the organisation’s work and presented its new video and school teaching aid, "Third World Debt – Drop it" which lasted for around 20 minutes. Attendees were impressed with the professionalism of the video and inspired by the determination which Audrey had shown in getting the project off the ground and to completion. Videos are available for a donation of £10 each and cheques are payable to Jubilee Debt Campaign B’ham & West Mids.
Stephen Zarlenga, author of The Lost Science of Money (See Prosperity, June and July 2004) spoke next.
He explained that his studies had led him to conclude that the theme running through the ages had been whether money, at its point of issue, was to be privately-created, or publicly-created.
He noted that the Bank of England was a nationalised institution, unlike the Federal Reserve in the US. He said that the Federal Reserve should be reconstituted within the US Treasury and a monetary authority should represent a fourth branch of government, on a par with the executive, judicial and legislative branches. "There is always going to be a monetary part, whether we want it or not, and so make it public, not private", he said.
After evening meal, David Boyle of the New Economics Foundation, editor of its journal radical economics and author of several books including The Money Changers and The Little Money Book (See Prosperity, January 2003 and December 2003, respectively) gave an extremely instructive presentation.
The first part of his talk addressed the history of the New Economics Foundation and its projects, including Jubilee 2000, which it had initiated. It has been particularly skilful in framing a problem in a way which people can grasp easily.
For example, recently it has been studying local investment and local money flows and has found that if one third of people in a local community start to spend one third of their money in an out-of-town supermarket, then that will be the "tipping point" which will ruin the small shops in the centre of the town or village.
This reinforces the message that it is not only about the supply of money, but the fact that, "the money needs to go to the right places, it needs to behave the right way when it’s there, and it needs to stay there."
David listed some points for campaigners to remember: We need to stay very precise and absolutely accurate in our efforts. We need to encourage dialogue at every level. We need an alliance of outsiders who are in alliance with insiders. "You have to touch power in order to ‘save the world’" he stated.
Furthermore, we can often have more success with "small ideas which have big applications. Big ideas can scare people". We need to remember that there will never be a big leap. It will be step by step.
We need to have 3 inter-related aspects functioning together: the Politics, the Psychology and the Mechanisms. For example, if we have the perfect mechanism, but the psychology of money does not change, or if we cannot get the idea into politics, then it will not function, or will malfunction.
And finally, we must not think that one thing will solve all the world’s problems. We need to keep our sense of realism!
The final session on Wednesday was a brainstorming workshop for ideas to promote the message, led by Peter Challen. The video which had been shown by Audrey Miller had inspired the thought that we would be able to do something similar. It was felt that there was the experience in the room to start the project, although the project would need to be properly thought through and financed.
Peter Challen mentioned the success of the Global Table at Euston and how similar "Open Tables" were to be encouraged.
Helen Trask suggested that there was scope for Fantopia, and The Admirable MacLintock books by James Gibb Stuart to be converted into school plays and that charities should be targeted with our message — we need to find "allies whose problems we can solve".
While tabling EDMs is an on-going project, it was suggested that "we don’t want to stay in Early Day Motion Land forever". Therefore, the possibility of drafting a Private Member’s Bill was suggested. Another good idea would be to convince an MP to ask a Parliamentary Question which would elicit useful information and statistics for our efforts.
When approaching MPs, it was agreed that we need to come out with practical policy which is helpful to them, and often it may be more effective to reach the MP’s researcher, rather than the MP.
Prosperity should do an interview with Bryan Gould, it was suggested.
The possibility for a module on Monetary Science for a school or college was raised. John Rogers mentioned the "Open College Network" where it might be possible to introduce a module which would receive accreditation. Once it is in the system, it will be on a national database which anyone can access.
Steven Carson mentioned the importance of fully utilising Internet Forums to promote the message.
Several other good ideas were mentioned, and in the November issue of Prosperity, we will explore these at greater length and think through what is needed to effect them adequately.
On Thursday morning Brian Ragbourn presented material from his PhD thesis on multiple currencies and introduced the "progressive utilisation theory" of P. R. Sarkar from India. He suggested that Sarkar’s book Liberation of Intellect was the best introduction to the PROUT concept which encompasses Sarkar’s theory of history and change, as well as his alternative political economy.
Dr Frances Hutchinson, author and economist at Bradford University spoke next on the theory of a Citizen’s Income for all. She stated that "money comes between us and our relationship with everything else". A Citizen’s Income had the potential to "undermine the dominance of the job system, to end wage slavery and release the freedom to contribute skills to the commonwealth."
Next, William Powell spoke on an innovative method of home investment which is termed "Partnership in Rent", whereby the property is owned by a "Limited Liability Partnership" between the occupier and an investor. He explained that this form of tenure is infinitely flexible ranging from pure rental to purchase. The occupier may increase his share in the Partnership by buying from the share held by the investor. More info is at www.fairshares.co.uk/fair-housing
The Open Forum was the final session of Bromsgrove 2004 and was chaired by Donald Martin.
He emphasised the need to set ourselves goals and aim to achieve them by the time of the Ninth Bromsgrove Conference — on the 18-20th October 2005.
Please put that date in your diary today!