The Aliens land in San Juan and see devastation everywhere, downed poles and rubble of fallen buildings remain months after Hurricane Maria. They ask their human guide to help them understand.
“I guess there isn’t enough manpower to clean up this huge mess.”
“No, actually there are lots of unemployed construction workers in San Juan who would like nothing better than to take this up.”
“So there must be a shortage of building material?”
“No, actually we have warehouses full of surplus material.”
“So why isn’t this mess being repaired? Where is the bottleneck?”
“Well, you see, there are these pieces of green paper, and we all have agreed to use them when we decide how….”
“Beam me up, Scottie. There’s no intelligent life on this planet.”
[I first heard this joke from Ellen Brown.]
It’s not just Puerto Rico—the entire American economy has been languishing for decades. The unemployment rate is so high that our government dares not report it accurately. People who don’t have a job feel desperately insecure, and people who hate their jobs won’t look for another one because they think this is just the way things have to be.
The purpose of money is to lubricate the exchange of goods and services, to make it easy for people to offer their labor and to get what they need. It isn’t working. Jeff Bezos and Lloyd Blankfein have more little pieces of green paper than they know what to do with, while some of the rest of us wonder how we can get enough of them to pay our rent.
Call your Congressman! Tell him to print more money!
Well, actually it may be too late for that—about 104 years too late. While our Constitution assigns to Congress the exclusive power “To coin Money, regulate the Value thereof,” there was a bill passed by a handful of Congressmen who snuck into the Capitol on Christmas eve, 1913, and gave this power to a private consortium of banks called the Federal Reserve.
So it’s the Fed that decides how much money the US economy needs. Maybe they’re making the decision in the long-term best interest of the American citizen; or maybe they’e considering the long-term best interest of the Fed’s member banks….
But we’re not without resources to repair this situation. We want to offer our services to one another. We want to receive what our neighbors have to offer. If greenbacks are in short supply, we can mediate the exchange with something else. Barter. Skills banks. Credit unions. Community-based currencies. Here are stories of how eleven American communities took the matter in hand and created money from thin air. Number two is my home town.
There’s nothing magic about it. Any community that can offer value can create money.