Thursday, March 23, 2006

Rachel McAlpine reviews book for Kapiti Observer

Review by Rachel McAlpine in Kapiti Observer, 23 March, 2006

Healthy Money Healthy Planet: Developing Sustainability through new money systems, by Deirdre Kent, Craig Potton Publishing.

A new book from Deirdre Kent of Waikanae is in tune with the ideals of Craig Potton Publishing, who produce ‘occasional, but important books on a variety of social and environmental issues.’

What have money systems to do with a healthy planet? The answer is shocking and incredible.

‘The national currency of industrialised nations is created when commercial banks issue loans’, explains Deirdre Kent. ‘Banks created the loan but not the interest to pay it back.”

Thus our economy depends on a shortage of currency, and industrialised nations are all, by definition, eternally, inevitably, permanently, hopelessly in debt. This forces economic growth, which damages our planet. All any government can do is twiddle with the details, if I have got the message right.

To abolish the world monetary system is not realistic, and Deirdre Kent does not suggest such a thing.

But local, complementary currencies can and do coexist, with many benefits.

The book includes a fascinating overview of ‘healthy’ money systems.

Examples in New Zealand include Green dollars, Chatham Island Notes, Flybuys, Air New Zealand Airpoints Dollars, Bartercard and Tradecard. The policies of our big banks are compared with those of Kiwibank, the credit unions and community banks.

This is a lively book about a timely topic that most people barely think about. It is by a non-economist for non-economists – a refreshing approach.

The author repeatedly strikes a note of moderation, for example by quoting JK Galbraith: ‘A constant in the history of money is that every remedy is reliably a source of new abuse.’

(Let me declare my interest: Deirdre Kent is my sister)

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