So we had a tea party. Now what?

I was honored to be invited to speak at the Raleigh, North Carolina Tax Day Tea Party Wednesday evening. I’m a poor judge of crowds, but estimates ranged from 2,000 to 7,000 from various sources — the east lawn of the old capitol downtown was completely full.

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This event was the perfect opportunity to capture the transpartisan frustration surrounding our economic malaise, and the immense conflicts of interest that drive government efforts at “recovery.”

Chris Martenson recently explained the root of our shared frustrations. America is literally being looted:

As cynical as I am, I just can’t keep up.

That sentence is a paraphrase of a quote by Lily Tomlin that reads, “No matter how cynical you become, it’s never enough to keep up.”

I have long been a cynic of the bailouts and, unfortunately, I cannot detect even the slightest sliver of daylight between the prior and current administrations. The reason, I fear, is captured by this quote from Simon Johnson, the former Chief Economist at the IMF and current professor at MIT’s Sloan School of Management:

The crash has laid bare many unpleasant truths about the United States. One of the most alarming, says a former chief economist of the International Monetary Fund, is that the finance industry has effectively captured our government—a state of affairs that more typically describes emerging markets, and is at the center of many emerging-market crises. If the IMF’s staff could speak freely about the U.S., it would tell us what it tells all countries in this situation: recovery will fail unless we break the financial oligarchy that is blocking essential reform. And if we are to prevent a true depression, we’re running out of time.

The unfortunate conclusion here is that our system and processes are fully “captured” by a tangled web of interests that serve themselves over everything else. Your future, my future, and our future is being systematically ruined by a self-interested group of insiders that can no longer distinguish between their good and the common good.

Here’s the latest string of outrages from this week.

First it is vitally important that not just the absence of conflict of interest be present when big money is involved in policy decisions, but also the appearance of conflict. Our system of money is based on confidence (after all it is a Ponzi scheme) and therefore it is vital that our checks and balances assure that the public good is not abused by a few at the expense of the many.

In order for the average person to pull hard on the yoke of life, straining to earn their daily wage, that wage has to be worth something. What is money “worth” if some of us have to work to exhaustion to obtain it while a very small minority can literally conjure trillions out of thin air and distribute it amongst themselves?

Money is a social contract, especially fiat money, and abusing the trust inherent to making that money system work is the gravest of all possible errors.

Once we recognize the problem, it was an even better opportunity to discuss what we as Americans can actually do. On that topic, I was excited to discuss the upcoming relaunch of our community currency: the Piedmont Local Economy Tender, or PLENTY.

I’ve been working with a group of local economy advocates since last fall to relaunch this currency so we can begin taking control of our economy, and advancing local prosperity. We’ve joined forces with a forward-thinking locally-owned bank, Capital Bank, to offer exchange services and ensure that new PLENTY currency is fully redeemably in Federal Reserve Notes.

Why a local currency?

It’s both a valuable economic safety net and a way to build our economy through increased economic freedom. The PLENTY circulates locally — so when you spend it with a local merchant who creates value for you, that merchant will then try to spend it with someone else in our community. Every time a note changes hands in a voluntary transaction, it’s evidence that value has been created — and our community is that much more wealthy and self-sufficient.

Why a local currency redeemable in Federal Reserve Notes?

We’re starting with a local currency that is backed and redeemable in Federal Reserve Notes since that’s the most familiar reference that most people have for “money”. The key issue, however, is that a trustworthy currency must be backed by something of accepted value. Our bylaws allow us to create additional PLENTY “flavors” that are backed by other commodities, as well — perhaps local biodiesel, agricultural commodities, or gold/silver. The defining characteristic of the PLENTY is that it is backed and redeemable in something, and thus we can grow the circulation as we create more wealth in the community.

Is this a new, revolutionary idea?

No — local currencies are as old as our nation, and actually date back to the original colonies. They’re also completely legal. That’s a good thing, since the British government’s outlawing the colonies’ local currencies with the Currency Act of 1764 was a major contributor to the Revolutionary War.

The relaunch of our local currency is following an established model used successfully by other communities, including BerkShares in western Massachusetts.

There’s an old saying about not biting the hand that feeds you. More people are beginning to discover, however, that our federal government and financial system together are not a hand that feeds us, but rather a hand with a knife that extracts increasingly painful pounds of flesh.

It’s time to withdraw consent for government by Wall Street, and the ill-fated bailouts that smother us under an increasing mountain of unpayable debt. True economic security comes from prosperous, self-sufficient communities that trade with one another from a position of strength, and surplus.

There is much more information about the PLENTY and local currencies in general at our Web site, www.theplenty.org.


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