Feeling the squeeze? Help build the credit commons

Hello all, how are you and how are you faring?

I’ve been quiet awhile: recovering from last year’s burnout, resuming momentum slowly; designing and implementing a 50m2 haybale garden on my folks’ land in Devon for Covid resilience…

Happily my business has seemed Covid-resilient so far, as although I couldn’t get to the Hebrides to source my preferred British yarn, at least trade ticked over through the spring and summer (when it’s normally relatively slow anyway). 

An inspired customer requested a challenging and exciting commission where I wove an unfamiliar Australian shore for her. It needed a pink hue and as I could not source the right sort of yarn the range of which included any good earthen pinks, I dyed some myself. In last year’s turmoil moving between a number of borrowed houses in Brittany, I’d collected walnut husks and cherry bark, and added some apple bark, all from fallen branches, from my folks’ orchard. Thus the blanket hue was warmed:

In my shop are a couple of new batches of snugs, and upcoming are some shawls with a new, softer (slightly more expensive) lambswool yarn. Some of these are based around the remaining plant-dyed pinks. The newest of these will appear in my shop before the end of next week when a pause in the rain finally permits a full photoshoot.

In the absence of meeting fellow makers and finding inspiration at actual, physical craft fairs, I’ve curated some online craftcases for cross-publicity, showing off my work among theirs in handsome complement. Here’s a taster, click for more:

and

If your imagination or your Christmas list need feeding, do pay their shops a visit.

I’m also on the shortlist for one of the most prestigious craft fairs in the UK that’s happening digitally this year at the end of November – dependent upon someone else not taking up their place. 

However, trade should be picking up a pace now the weather’s cooler and I’m in peak season – but it’s not. So, like most people, I’m worried again. My prices are having to increase all the time if I’m ever to achieve and sustain an actual house. The van is leaky and miserable nowadays, and UK housing extortionate and in crisis. Which brings me to an ever-refining version of my usual political hobby horse, plus a solution I’ve had my eye on for a couple of years now…

Capitalism is the exploitation of economies of scale for extraction of ‘surplus’ as profit: in order to service, and milk, our debt money system, a few extract ‘surplus’ from the labour of the many in order to concentrate wealth that is generally inadequately redistributed to achieve common good. This maximisation at just about any cost is the organising principle of our current economic system, and all money-dependent markets are locked into this growth dynamic: paradoxically, without growth our system collapses, leaving unemployed masses too short to keep up the required levels of consumption and therefore increasingly redundant in an environment of reduced production.

This locking mechanism for growth is due to the monetary system in which credit is created from nothing, as debt, at interest, by private banks. Because only a few are privileged with the right to this credit creation, market distortions of hoarding and scarcity prevail, compelling ever more exploitative and destructive competition.

So what if all those who physically could had the ability to create credit, as most of us effectively do with our own labour all the time? In this ideal world, the fruits of our labour would be our own: workers would be owners; we could all create, lend and borrow credit limited only by our own productive capacity. Nobody would have special privileges for infinite credit creation or be compelled to store excess wealth in the black hole that is the finance sector. Nobody would need to generate or consume excess. Sure, there’d still be human fear and human greed, but we would eradicate the structural growth compulsion of the present system, thus enabling our widespread good intentions and multitude of positive initiatives to actually change the world.

You and I can start making this new economy today by forming mutual credit clusters among ourselves. Imagine co-operatively owned moneyless marketplaces a little like Amazon but without the fat CEO and workers so pressured that they have to pee in bottles. Imagine that you didn’t feel ripped off by faceless corporations. Imagine this network cementing the community of your town or your diaspora, instead of robbing our neighbours near and far. Imagine that you didn’t have to cut corners on ethical spending because you could afford to pay in kind the proper price for things. Imagine no-one had to fear destitution; had to elbow their way up; had to kick downwards to stay ahead. Imagine that there would always be just enough. Imagine a multi-way barter system where nobody got rich on lending or broken by borrowing. Imagine exchange of goods, services, skills and surplus domestic items or garden produce facilitated by innovative software running an equitable banking model that was unavailable to the Lets generation.

I’m enlisting the support of Dave Darby and Dil Green from lowimpact.org, who are in a loose affiliation of philanthropes who form the Mutual Credit Services team here in the UK. After earlier trials with the Open Credit Network, MCS members want to support existing communities and business networks to share their wants and offers in moneyless exchange. They envisage that each cluster will be federatable to other clusters around the country and world so that eventually more of our individual needs and wants can be met by the wider network. (There are successful precedents for this, such as the Sardex in Sardinia in which the value of annual transactions amounts to over €30m.)

The clearing system in this mutual credit banking model, which requires periodic ‘netting off’ of member debits and credits with cash, avoids some of the pitfalls of unequal exchange suffered by the old Lets schemes, offering a transition stage from a money-based economy to an eventual moneyless one. In practice this might mean that, as long as we all still have to buy and sell in the outside world of money, for every £1000 worth of transactions in the cluster, there might be around £100 exchanged between members in normal money.

I intend to initiate a mutual credit cluster myself where we all advertise our offers and wants. I’ve just created a Facebook group to invite initial expressions of interest among the friends and customers of These Isles, and would love to see your names either there or expressing your interest in the comments below.

Help make trade work for the common good!

2 thoughts on “Feeling the squeeze? Help build the credit commons

  1. Beautiful work and as an Australian I love your blanket. The online craft is just amazing. We’ve been in lockdown for 6 months in Melbourne. It’s been tough indeed, but an upside has been an exceedingly slow life that has something to appreciate and it’s caused many city dwellers to make changes to their lifestyle and even move out of the city, as apartment dwelling in the inner city has shown it’s limitations when all entertainment and hospitality is closed and movement is restricted to 5km from home. COVID has certainly shown up the big flaws in modern life. I hope we continue to reflect and act on our experiences as we come back to normality.

    Like

    • Hi Melanie from Melbourne, thank you for this, it’s great to meet you across the world! Digitech brings gifts as well as threats, but is no substitute for land. Vulnerable without it indeed. I hope people will increasingly see themselves as producers – owners of our own labour, credit creators…

      Like

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