Last month, I visited Manchester and Sheffield on the invitation of Adrian Byrne and Peter Verity, who are part of the Positive Money groups in those cities. They were connecting with their universities’ alternative economics societies to introduce Positive Money and the issues surrounding money creation to students – Post-Crash in Manchester and the Alternative Economics Society in Sheffield. I learnt that local Positive Money groups and alternative economics groups in universities get on very well and should combine forces as much as possible.
I set off on an early train from London and explored Manchester during the day (bowled over by the North’s great fast food chain called Fatso’s – fast fooding roast dinner takeaways! Aye!). After a sweep of red brick architecture, I met Adrian, some members of the Positive Money Manchester group and Post-Crash at the uni. I gave a talk on money creation and its misconceptions, and there followed a lively debate on the issues raised. After that followed the customary lively debate in the local student union.
The next day I made it to Sheffield and had a few hours to myself once more, time again for an off-the-cuff architecture tour round Sheffield’s impressive modernist structures. I then met Peter with some Positive Money members and the Alt Econ Soc at the uni. It was a very good turnout and produced an interesting Q + A session with many points of view.
The housing crisis was taken by many as a clear ‘way in’ to looking at money creation critically. The rise of mortgage lending and then house prices is probably the best example of how banks’ ability to create money is harmful to society in the current system.
As always there were a great range of questions. There tended to be more debate about the solution rather than the diagnosis. A recurring question was ‘Why wouldn’t it be enough to tighten regulation to enforce a tough reserve ratio on the banks?’, and furthermore ‘Doesn’t having control of the money supply outside of politicians’ hands work as an anti-corruption measure?’. These are questions about the political system which I found more challenging, as I have an economics background.
It was really clear from this trip that students are tuned in to understanding money creation as soon as it is linked to real-world problems. The best way to move forward with student engagement must be activism on specific issues – housing being number 1. Activism here could mean putting on events in uni to raise awareness of how banks’ ability to create money has forced up rents.
Many thanks once again to the Positive Money groups and alternative economics societies who invited me to talk. It was great to meet everybody and share in our passion to learn about and change how money works.