Money and Sustainability: The missing link, by Bernard Lietaer, Christian Arnsperger, Sally Goerner, and Stafan Brunnhuber

Triarchy Press for the Club of Rome, EU Chapter, 1 908009 7 53, pbk, 211 pp, £24

This report, written for a European group affiliated to the think tank The Club of Rome, stands in a long line of publications that identify the creation of money via bank debt as an economic, social, and ecological problem. Money created in this way, and the ways in which we have turned money into a variously packaged commodity, amplify boom and bust cycles, result in short term thinking, require economic growth to sustain the system, concentrate wealth, and damage the trust on which social capital is built. Repeated banking crises are a clear signal of a system in trouble.

The authors identify the fundamental problem as currency monopoly, and propose that the monopoly should be broken by an extension of existing experiments in complementary currencies.

The reason for this review in the Citizen’s Income Newsletter is not because this book is about a Citizen’s Income, or about the structure of tax and benefits systems. It isn’t. But it is an exercise parallel in many respects to the research that the Citizen’s Income Trust and others have done on feasible extensions of universal benefits. The book recognises that the current monetary system has to continue much as it is; it identifies problems with the current system, and argues convincingly that plural currencies at a variety of levels (local, national, and European) would be a partial solution to many of the current difficulties and would reduce the risk of future crises; it studies and evaluates existing experiments in alternative currencies; and it makes feasible proposals on the basis of those evaluations. Similarly, we have shown that a Citizen’s Income would be an adaptation of the existing tax and benefits system, that it would respond to a variety of current economic and social problems, that it would build on existing experience of universal benefits, and that it would be feasible.

This is not the place for a detailed critique of the authors’ nine specific proposals, but to this reviewer they appeared both feasible and desirable: as would be a Citizen’s Income.

This is a good book on how limited economic reforms could make a real difference to both our global society and its environment.