Report by Steve Bollom:
Sheffield has been a venue for a number of talks and presentations over the months of March and April as the Festival of Debate has hosted around 30 events in the run up to GE15. Subjects under discussion have included the austerity policies of the past five years, the changing role of the media, devolution, sexual politics and the environment, and the festival has been drawing audiences with well known speakers such as Owen Jones and George Monbiot.
Positive Money was represented this Wednesday (22nd April) with a talk by Co-ordinator of the Sheffield Group, Peter Verity, titled, ‘Banks, Debt and Inequality’. The opening slide cited a quote attributed to Henry Ford:
‘It is well enough that people of the nation do not understand our banking and monetary system, for if they did, I believe there would be a revolution before tomorrow morning.’
A sell out audience of around 40 were introduced to the true functioning of banks within our economy, and many for the first time – as was clear from the questions that were fed back throughout. After dispelling myths such as that banks act as ‘intermediaries’ in our current system, Peter was asked by an audience member, “So, how do I start my own bank?”. The second section of the talk dealt with the different forms of debt held within society and the misconceived emphasis on the National Debt in media discriptions of this issue. I for one didn’t know that the interest payments on the National Debt plotted against GDP are actually relatively low at present by historic standards.
The third section dealt with the hot topic of inequality, and more specifically the influence of a debt based monetary system in redistributing wealth upwards. There were some fascinating statistics about trends in income inequality versus wealth inequality, about credit card use (incredibly, the UK holds 73% of the European market), and the long term trends in house price inflation plotted alongside the population changes and house building (i.e. housing demand) in the UK.
The talk was wrapped up with a description of the Positive Money’s reform proposals, Frosti Sigurjonsson’s recent report for the Icelandic government, and the state of play with regard to the media’s responses to these ideas.
Perhaps not a revolution before morning- but like at so many of these events where people first learn about the realities of money and banking, there was a definite air in the room that we were being educated about something fundamental; something essential to the many causes for positive change in society.
Samantha Galbraith, Master of Design in Illustration, Community Reportage Illustrator, twitter account @sgalbraith47, email address sgalbraith47[at]yahoo.co.uk