Thursday, February 05, 2009

Gordon Brown, Depression slip of tongue - and monetary reform

Gordon Brown's slip of the tongue, referring to action to take the world out of "depression" when he meant "recession" is probably an indication of what the Cabinet is talking about behind closed doors.

The Economist says ... "there is no widely accepted definition of depression. ...A search on the internet suggests two principal criteria for distinguishing a depression from a recession: a decline in real GDP that exceeds 10%, or one that lasts more than three years. America’s Great Depression qualifies on both counts, with GDP falling by around 30% between 1929 and 1933. Output also fell by 13% during 1937 and 1938. The Great Depression was America’s deepest economic slump (excluding those related to wars), but at 43 months it was not the longest: that dubious honour goes to the one in 1873-79, which lasted 65 months".

So Gordon's slip may indicate the seriousness of what the world is facing. Add to that the impact of climate change, where extreme weather events will cause further economic disruption and added burdens on the insurance industry (see here for a bar graph of rising insurance claims for extreme weather events). UK plc is heavily dependent on insurance - financial services and insurance constitute 22.7% of our commercial service exports - so climate change is going to hit us hard (although not so hard as poor countries who did little to cause the problem).

This may be why depression is in Gordon's thoughts, and gets tangled up with his emergent thoughts. Maybe this is why Joseph Stiglitz said Gordon should let the banks fail and set up a fresh banking system under temporary state control rather than cripple the country by propping up a corrupt edifice.

And this is why we should give thought to James Robertson's proposals regarding a radical restructuring of money. This is James' message:


The G20 Must Discuss Monetary Reform at its 2nd April Meeting
and We Must Make Sure It's on Their Agenda

The way money is created today as profit-making debt, both nationally and internationally, cannot avoid leading to recurrent highly damaging booms and busts. In normal times too, it results in a skewed system of financial rewards and penalties that motivates almost everyone in the world to get money in socially, environmentally, and economically damaging ways.

This means that not only active citizens should support monetary reform. So should non-governmental organisations (NGOs) concerned with social issues (poverty, welfare, social injustice, health, human rights, etc), environmental issues (climate change, energy supply and use, water, food and agriculture, etc); the problems of ‘developing’ countries; and general economic and public policy issues (world future prospects; local and community economic development; ethical investing, trading and consuming; corporate social responsibility; etc).

The G20 (twenty of the economically most important countries in the world) is replacing the G7 as the top international forum for discussing the world’s economic problems. It is meeting at the beginning of April in London to discuss international co-operation in handling the present global financial crisis.

So far, their policies have ignored the importance of national and international monetary reform. It is vital that they should be persuaded to put these topics on their agenda and we must make sure that this happens.

What to do. People in all the G20 countries should act urgently:

  • to mobilise pressure on their governments by early March to include national and international monetary reform in their April agenda, and
  • to achieve widespread media coverage in their countries about why those reforms are necessary.

  • That can be done through many channels. They include writing and other ways of communicating:
  • to the politicians who represent us in our legislatures
  • to the press and broadcasting media;
  • to NGOs that support our concern for development, social justice, environment, ethical economics, or any of the numerous causes that suffer from how the present money system works;
  • to other people able to do any of these things themselves, and
  • by speaking at meetings about those concerns.

In an enterprise of this kind, even the smallest action may turn out to have a big impact.

Please feel free to use any information from the campaign document, which explains why monetary reform is needed and suggests some possible solutions. A pdf version can be downloaded from

Meanwhile, during the next eight weeks, this will have to be a highly de-centralised co-operative project. It is potentially very influential if self-energised and co-ordinated by its participants with one another in their own and other G20 countries - pursuing the shared aim of encouraging and pressuring the governments of the G20 countries to take monetary reform very seriously.

We will aim to make news reports of the campaign available once a week at

Please forward this notice to anyone who you think might be interested. As the G20 meeting starts on 2nd April, time is of the essence.

James Robertson

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