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“Economics in Transition”: an evening in Totnes exploring the potential and future of the Totnes Pound.

Rob Hopkins, Transition Culture
On Sunday 17th November, an evening was held at the Seven Stars Hotel in Totnes to explore the past, present and future of the Totnes Pound. We were extremely lucky to have at the meeting Richard Douthwaite, Bernard Lietaer and David Boyle, who were all at Schumacher College for an economics think tank which we borrowed them from. The intention of the evening was to gather the ideas from the experts, from the community and from local traders about the Pound, about its successes and its weakenesses, in advance of the planning for a third phase early in the New Year.

The first speaker was Noel Longhurst of the TTT Totnes Pound group, who gave an overview of the scheme so far. He began by explaining that, as the New Economics Foundation have identified, every time money is spent with local businesses it is often then respent locally, an effect known as the ‘multiplier effect’. The Totnes Pound, Noel explained, has four principle aims;

  1. to build local economic resilience and support the process of localisation

  2. to raise questions about money and complementary currencies in the UK
  3. to raise awareness about the Transition movement, peak oil and climate change
  4. to act as an experiment.

(26 November 2007)
Interesting thinking on alternative currencies by several thinkers.

Price tag in mortgage crisis is looking like real money

Walter Hamilton and E. Scott Reckard, Los Angeles Times
With effects reverberating throughout the economy, pressure grows for the Fed to cut interest rates further. But that wouldn’t necessarily prevent a recession.

The mortgage meltdown is taking a rising toll on the broader economy, increasing pressure on the Federal Reserve to slash interest rates for a third time next month in hopes of averting a recession.

Homeowners will see their property values sink by $1.2 trillion next year, and 524,000 fewer jobs will be created — both a result of the trouble caused by loan defaults and rising foreclosures, according to a report released this week for the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

The fallout is weakening consumer spending, and auto sales next year will be their worst since 1998, according to the study by research firm Global Insight.

Amid widening concern over a sharp economic downturn, Fed Chairman Ben S. Bernanke suggested late Thursday that the central bank was prepared to cut its benchmark interest rate when it meets Dec. 11.
(30 November 2007)

Review of Squeezed: Diary Of The Onset Of The Greater Depression

Carolyn Baker, Truth To Power
For more years than I can count I’ve heard Danny Schechter’s name bandied about in progressive circles, but for all his tireless activism, he did not fully capture my attention until I saw his stunning documentary “In Debt We Trust.” By that time I had forsaken my myopic focus on imperialism, the Iraq War, the Democratic Party, and of course, Bush-bashing. It was becoming painfully and increasingly clear to me that history was repeating itself, and being an historian, I was well aware that it never does so in exactly the same manner but often with enough mirroring of earlier eras that it behooves human beings to sit up and pay attention.

About the same time that “In Debt We Trust” appeared on my radar screen, Chalmers Johnson’s Nemesis was released, hammering home the inescapable similarities between the fall of the Roman Empire and the demise of the United States. Despite the divergence of focus between Schechter’s documentary and Johnson’s Nemesis, both ultimately reveal that the American empire is descending into catastrophic financial collapse, already bankrupt, which will eventually result in the abject impoverishment of all but a very few of its privileged inhabitants.

After purchasing “In Debt We Trust” I showed it regularly to a particularly endangered species in the empire’s economic war on its own citizens, students. As a result, many “come to Jesus meetings” and “true confession sessions” ensued in my classes as they unburdened their souls regarding the gargantuan student loan debt with which they would leave college and their accelerating awareness that glamorous, cushy, lucrative jobs with which they might pay off their debts would not exactly be falling at their feet.

Then came Danny’s new e-book Squeezed and his request that I review it. After reading it, the above description “a diary of the onset of the Greater Depression” came to mind. Let me explain.

… When I talk about collapse, my second paragraph usually goes something like, “Get out of debt, get out of debt, get out of debt-unless you plan to be an unincarcerated (or incarcerated) wage slave of corporate capitalism for the rest of your life.”

I could not agree more with Danny’s directive to talk about debt, become financially literate as individuals, avoid and liberate ourselves from debt, and watch and share with others “In Debt We Trust.” But I must add that all evidence points to the frightening reality not only of an economic depression dead-ahead, but an even more frightening scenario: a world in which it will be very difficult to obtain food, drinkable water, or healthcare-thanks again to the Terminal Triangle.
(29 November 2007)