A great success! Over one hundred people took the time on 8th November 2012, to attend “Where Does Money Come From?” in Newcastle upon Tyne. This event was part of the Economic and Social Research Council’s (ESRC) Festival of Social Science. An event the size of “Where Does Money Come From?” was just a glimmer in the local Positive Money team’s eye earlier this year, but after successfully obtaining funding from the ESRC, the team of Positive Money supporters in Newcastle area was able to make it a reality.
One of our core group members, Gary Brooks, organised everything, with the rest of us distributing the posters and leaflets which he very professionally produced, and then helping with refreshments and generally welcoming people on the actual day. Ralph arrived early to lay out a selection of books and leaflets, and set up his purpose-built folding screen, decorated with interesting monetary quotes and cartoons, in one corner of the hall.
Gary is not only a first-rate organiser: he also knows the ropes when applying for funding. Because, owing to his efforts, the event qualified as part of the Economic and Social Research Council’s Festival of Social Science, we had enough money to hire a hall (at the Unitarian Church in Newcastle) with first-rate facilities, including a helpful caretaker. We were also able to provide hot and cold food in between the two presentations: quite important, this, since the proceedings started at 5.30, and many people were arriving straight from work.
Professor Mary Mellor and Dr Alberto Montagnoli were the featured speakers, giving attendees an insight in to the monetary system and all its failings and inspiring them to get passionate about this issue and more importantly to start talking to people about it. Change will not happen without clear and frank discussion of the problems our monetary system causes society. Alberto explained the history of money, how money is created now by commercial banks and how it exists just in computers. Mary went in to the problems it causes us and talked about the solutions that are open to us.
Both speakers were excellent. In the first half of the programme Dr Alberto Montagnoli, Senior Lecturer in Banking and Finance at the University of Stirling, showed how, since deregulation, money was being created by the banks in line with their own priorities. He emphasised the fact that, as things stand, there is nothing to stop the them lending into existence as much money as they want to – it’s just that, at present, they don’t want to.
Dr Montagnoli recognised that something urgently needs to be done to get the real economy moving, but favoured a return to strict regulation rather than outright reform of the system. In particular, he pointed to the lack of small local and regional banks in this country as one of the problems which should receive attention if local economies are to thrive.
After questions and a break for refreshments, the second speaker, Mary Mellor, Emeritus Professor of Sociology at Northumbria University, looked at the question from a different perspective, focussing on the fact that the money supply has, by default, been privatised: yet though it is now a source of vast private profit for the banks, it is the public who have to go into debt to bail out delinquent lenders – only to be told by those they have rescued that they, the rescuers, have been very naughty, and must be punished for their naughtiness with a good dose of austerity. Professor Mellor, like Positive Money, believes passionately that the power of issuing money must be returned to a public agency. In answer to a question from the audience, she dismissed the idea of a new Glass Steagall Act as a solution, since the banks would find easy ways to get round it, ‘holding hands under the cover’ to move money around.
After ten minutes or so of questions, there was a five-minute talk by Ben Dyson, courtesy of video – a personal message recorded especially for the event; then a further question-and-answer session with a panel of the two speakers plus Positive Money Newcastle’s Richard Shelley: as a medical student at Newcastle University, he is particularly concerned by the damage inflicted on the National Health Service by a perennial lack of funding.
The Newcastle team were delighted to have such a good turn-out for their first major event. I was particularly gratified by the response of one lady in the audience, who was at first disbelieving, then outraged, to hear that she could be turned out of her house if she should fail to pay the bank, with interest in spades, what they had never actually had in the first place. It was a similar reaction to the incredible truth which first led to my becoming interested in money reform.
39 people signed up to follow the Positive Money Campaign on the night.
The Positive Money team in Newcastle are planning a further event, south of the Tyne this time, before the end of November – details to follow soon!