Democratizing Money: Creating a Public Monetary System

August 30, 2011

Summarized by Kevin Zeese [ed: who did a fantastic job!]

This is a session from the economic track of the Democracy Convention held on August 25, 2011 in Madison, WI. The session focused on democratizing money. The speaker was Greg Coleridge whose biography and contact information are at the bottom of the summary. I expanded on his comments and added some links to videos and websites that provide more information.

Democracy Convention — Day 5

Move to Amend

The Convention concluded yesterday. The major theme of the plenary was, “Securing Democracy through Constitutional Reform.” After lunch, there was a final Move to Amend strategy session on the work ahead over the next year. Nearly 50 people attended.

Here are 10 observations from Michael Greenman, Alice Faryna and myself (compiled as we’re driving home to Ohio) from these experiences:

1. We have won the cultural frame/meme that “corporations aren’t people.” Hardly anyone a few years ago knew about this concept. It is now much more commonly understood – and opposed by a large percentage of the general public.

2. The real challenge is not ultimately corporations. It’s us. It’s our own limited vision, thinking and actions, particularly concerning amending the Constitution – not just about corporate personhood, but also related to the right to vote and have our votes count, ending money being speech, promoting basic economic rights. We have to take ourselves seriously. We stand on the shoulders of giants. We have to act like it. Our starting point should be to convey that we can actually have what we want in terms of peace, justice and respect for the natural world.

3. We need a mature, serious, methodical and deliberative approach to create a democracy. It starts with US making peace with the world. This nation has grown out of a 500 year war against scores of nations of the world. It is coming to an end – around the world and here at home. The hypocracies and contradictions have never been clear. The ability to sustain a permanent war culture and economy is no longer possible. The new culture, political and economic system requires new rules, laws and constitution.

4. Working with NGOs inside the beltway or trying to lobby Congress given our small numbers is on this issue at this is virtually ineffective. As Richard Grossman said to David Cobb years ago after spending a frustrating session in DC: “I’m not going back to DC unless I’m a tourist or a member of a conquering army.”

5 We should be less concerned at this point with developing the exact constitutional amendment to abolish corporate personhood and money as speech than involving and honoring people and a devising radically inclusive processes for local education and action.

6. We have to relax and take care of ourselves. Democratizing the US Constitution in ways that authentically reflect our values of justice, peace and sustainability is a long-term project. We need to rush slowly.

7. It is shocking that the ACLU supported the Citizen United Supreme Court decision. They saw the issue through the lens of the first amendment rather than corporate constitutional rights. Only if one believes the fiction that corporations are persons is violating corporate free speech a constitutional violation.

8. We will not get where we want to go until we genuinely engage with communities of color. White must examine their unexamined privileges. We must also follow the direction of those communities we want to work with. We must also work to find common ground with principled liberals and conservatives.

9. It was incredibly exciting to engage with others in our sessions: brainstorming, networking, learning, conspiring. We developed a feeling of shared identity and common purpose as part of a growing movement. Being with others helped validate our work addressing what has been considered a “fringe” issue for more than a decade.

10. Throughout history real change (personal and political) has happened when it begins to feel chaotic, when normal and comfortable feelings and conditions are replaced with discomfort and uncertainty. When we begin to start feeling that all is chaotic, the opportunity for evolution is present.





Sparked in large part by personal debt, nonpayment of salaries, and collapse of the national currency, farmers in Massachusetts led by Daniel Shays attack a US Armory. The lack of a focused response to the uprisings led to calls to reforming the Articles of Confederation. The Philadelphia Convention, which followed, rather than reforming the Articles of Confederation, created a new Constitution. While less democratic in many ways, formulated by all white, male landowners, the new Constitution empowered the government to coin its own money, separate from banks and financial institutions.


“There was a big party at Morgan Stanley after the Mexican peso devaluation, people from all over Wall Street came, they drank champagne and smoked cigars and congratulated themselves on how they pulled it off and they made a fortune.”



“Derivatives are financial weapons of mass destruction.”



“When a bank makes a loan it simply adds to the borrowers deposit account in the bank by the amount of the loan. The money is not taken from anyone else’s deposit; it was not previously paid in to the bank by anyone. It’s new money, created by the bank for the use of the borrower.” August 31, 1959



The Act banned Colonial paper money as legal tender, severally limiting commerce and widening the trade deficit between England and the Colonies. Colonists were forced by pay their taxes only in gold or silver. Many, including Benjamin Frankln, claimed this was one of the major causes of the Revolutionary War.


American Bankers Association memo (as submitted in the Congressional Record): “On September 1, 1894, we will not renew our loans under any consideration. On September 1st we will demand our money. We will foreclose and become mortgages in possession. We can take two-thirds of the farms west of the Mississippi, and thousands of them east of the Mississippi as well, at our own price… “Then the farmers will become tenants as in England…”



There is nothing left now for us but to get ever deeper and deeper into debt to the banking system in order to provide the increasing amounts of money the nation requires for its expansion and growth. Our money system is nothing more than a confidence trick… The “money power” which has been able to overshadow ostensibly responsible governments not the power of the merely ultra-rich but is nothing more or less than a new technique to destroy money by adding and withdrawing figures in bank ledgers, without the slightest concern for the interests of the community or the real role money ought to perform therein … to allow it to become a source of revenue to private issuers is to create, first, a secret and illicit arm of government and, last, a rival power strong enough to ultimately overthrow all other forms of government. … An honest money system is the only alternative.


Why this calendar? Many people have questions about the root causes of our economic problems. Some questions involve money, banks and debt. How is money created? Why do banks control its quantity? How has the money system been used to liberate (not often) and oppress (most often) us? And how can the money system be “democratized” to rebuild our economy and society, create jobs and reduce debt?

Our goal is to inform, intrigue and inspire through bite size weekly postings listing important events and quotes from prominent individuals (both past and present) on money, banking and how the money system can help people and the planet. We hope the sharing of bits of buried history will illuminate monetary and banking issues and empower you with others to create real economic and political justice.

This calendar is a project of the Northeast Ohio American Friends Service Committee. Adele Looney, Phyllis Titus, Donna Schall, Leah Davis, Alice Francini and Greg Coleridge helped in its development.

Please forward this to others and encourage them to subscribe. To subscribe/unsubscribe or to comment on any entry, contact For more information, visit

Democracy Convention — Day 4

Diversity and Diversity

Attending the Convention is an impressive collection of people from across the county concerned and working on diverse issues using a range of strategies and tactics. “Democracy” is defined in different ways with varied degrees of emphasis. Subsuming corporations to We the People is also seen from various lights.

I participated in a range of gatherings:

1. It starting in the AM with participating on a panel addressing water as a fundamental right for people and nature – from local to global. To indigenous people, as explained by Alberto Saldamando of the International Indian Treaty Council, rights are not as much granted or endowed as they are fought for and claimed. In fact, rights are seen as collective more than individual. Property, too, is a concept to indigenous people not of ownership, but of relationships. Corporate ownership and commodification of water, therefore, is an alien concept.

I reported on the status of Ohio’s effort to comply with the Great Lakes Compact, which seeks to legalize how 8 states and 2 Canadian Provinces manage the use of and protect the Great Lakes Basin’s water supply the compact requires each state to decide by 2013 how Lake Erie waters are to be used. Earlier this summer, the Ohio General Assembly passed legislation that would allow businesses with withdrawal up to 5 million gallons of water a day from Lake Erie before needing a permit – a blatant violation of the original compact. Gov. Kucinich vetoed the legislation after public and media opposition, as well as criticism from former governors Taft and Voinovich. A revised bill is likely to be reintroduced later. I also spoke about the general trend in Ohio to privatize/corporatize many public assets in the state.

Nancy Price and Ruth Caplan from the Alliance for Democracy followed with descriptions of legislative attempts to protect California water supplies, successful resistance by Bolivians and others to corporatize water, passage of local ordinances in the US proclaiming that water has rights, and how global water corporations have sought to control water sources and systems by formed global groupings (from the Multinational Agreement on Investments, to the General Agreement on Trade and Services to the World Trade Organization to Bilateral Trade Agreements).

I concluding by affirming how corporations seek to escape democratic control in 3 ways: by shifting decision making from a lower level of government to a higher level (i.e. state to nation, nation to international), by shifting decision making from legislators to the courts, and by shifting decision making from the legislators to regulatory agencies.

2. The afternoon began with an impressive plenary on racial equality in the struggle for democracy and against corporate rule. Panelists shared their visions of what racial equality looked like in democracy, whether they felt we were moving forward or backwards in the struggle for racial equality, what specific work for equality they were involved in, and specific recommendations they felt we needed to be doing for racial just democracy. On the last point, a few of the suggestions were:

– Commitment to more self-work to address racism and white privilege among white participants

– Integration of race, gender, class and ability in all our analysis

– Acknowledgement that we will not share the same exact vision for the future

– Authentic inclusion of people of color in our organizations and work

– Real individual and organizational support for communities of color in their organizing activities

– Address fundamental structural impediments to equality (of which corporate personhood is one)

3. The afternoon ended with an intense 3-hour workshop on connecting mental health and racial oppression, which was a deeply moving sharing of personal experiences and assessment of macro blockages to self-expression – which included both governmental and corporate sources.

4. Diversity was in full mode this evening as conference participants mingled with incoming first year students on the main campus at the University of Wisconsin for an evening of music.

It the goal of the day was to stretch, bend and push our intellects and emotions by forcing us to be in unfamiliar yet supportive places, it was very successful.

Democratizing Constitutions Around the World

[This is my handout distributed at a workshop today on lessons learned on social movements to change the US Constitution.]

In exploring how to democratize the US Constitution in the future, we need to not only look at US movements in the past. We must also examine the efforts and movements of other people and nations in the present.


– Following massive protests connected to the Arab Spring, the government was forced to draft changes to the Constitution that weakens the power of the King – creating an independent prime minister, an independent judiciary and provides equal rights for women.

– In July, 98% of voters approved the changes in a national referendum.


– Mass popular revolution beginning in January, 2011 led to ouster of Hosni Mubarak and call for more democratic Constitution – forcing a national referendum.

– In March, nearly 80% voted in support of constitutional amendments paving the way for democratic elections for a new parliament and president within six months. The referendum divided Egyptians between those who said the reforms were sufficient and others who said the constitution needed to be complete rewritten.


– The 2008 economic collapse was blamed in part by a failure of government and regulatory agencies to oversee financial institutions plunder of the economy and collapse of most banks.

– Massive popular uprisings led to call for new constitution.

– November, 2010 popular election to elected 25 people to form Constitutional Assembly. “This is the first time in the history of the world that a nation’s constitution is reviewed in such a way, by direct democratic process,” says Berghildur Erla Bergthorsdottir, spokeswoman for the committee entrusted with organizing the Constitutional Assembly. “It is very important for ordinary citizens, who have no direct interest in maintaining the status quo, to take part in a constitutional review,” said Prime Minister Johanna Sigurdardottir. “We are hoping this new constitution will be a new social covenant leading to reconstruction and reconciliation, and for that to happen, the entire nation needs to be involved.”

– Assembly composed of regular citizens, with the exception of current officeholders and stakeholders.

– Assembly is currently drafting a proposed new constitution. They are using ideas from 1,000 randomly chosen Icelanders — aged 18-89 — who offered their views in 2010 on what should be in the constitution. The Assembly is also accepting ideas from their Facebook page, which covers the weekly meetings in real time.


– President Hugo Chavez issues decree in 1999 ordering a referendum to ask people whether a Constituent Assembly should be held to reform the Constitution. Passes with 82% of vote.

– Nationwide elections of 131 members in 1999 of Assembly representing the nation as a whole, regional districts and constituencies, and indigenous populations.

– Only 3 months for public input.

– Three branches of government expanded to 5. It incorporated the idea of popular sovereignty (such as frequent referendums), social responsibilities, the right to rebel against injustice, and the eternal independence of the republic from foreign domination. It also embedded certain human rights (free education , free health care, access to a clean environment, and the rights for minorities, including indigenous people, to their own cultures, religions, and languages).

– 26th Constitution approved by 72% of voters in national referendum in December, 2009.


– National referendum for a new Constitution was passed by 90% of voters.

– Drafted by the Constituent Assembly, an elected body that met for 18 months, beginning in 2006. The Constitution was further modified by an Editing Commission before being present to Congress in December 2007

– The Constitution (Chapter Three of Title I) defines the forms of democracy—participatory, representative and community-based—and structure of government. It also establishes a separation of powers between four branches of government: legistlative, executive judicial, and electoral.

– 17th Constitution approved by 64% by national referendum in 2009.


– Following 2006 election of President Rafael Correa, he called for a referendum to form a constitutional assembly to write a new constitution. The April 2007 referendum passed – 80%

– Elections of new assembly, September, 2007, 130 members.

– Assembly developed a draft consisting of 494 articles, including Rights of Nature.

– 20th Constitution passed in September, 2008 by a 64% to 28% majority in a national referendum

Lessons for us in the US

Following significant uprisings and social movements that have demanded societal change, people haven’t simply called for changing faces, political parties or laws. They’ve called for changing constitutions. We need to do the same. We need to overcome the culture and fear that has caused us to avoid addressing constiutional injustices and to codify our aspirations.


More information: Greg Coleridge, Director, Northeast Ohio American Friends Service Committee, 2101 Front St., #111, Cuyahoga Falls, OH 44221, 330-928-2301,,

Democracy Convention – Day 3

Arts and Democracy

Real democracy is achieved, in part, through skills and knowledge. The Convention has supplied plenty of both. But inspiration, creativity and joy essential for attracting and nurturing people over the long haul is supplied through the arts. There’s been many examples of artistic expressions and avenues for participation today and this week.

– The wonderful folk musician, Anne Feeney, is here. Two of her great songs are, “A corporation cannot pass the belly button test” and “End corporate welfare as we know it.”

– The Madison chapter of Raging Grannies brought the house down when they performed “Corporations are Persons Now!” Lyrics for the song are at

– Many conference attendees have participated in the daily “Solidarity Sing Alongs” held every weekday at the Wisconsin State Capital. Today, about 100 people participated.

– A wonderful play, “The Prosecution of Judge Waite,” was staged this evening. Morrison Waite (from Toledo, Ohio) was the Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court at the time of the 1886 Santa Clara vs Southern Pacific Railroad ruling which first granting corporations constitutional rights…sort of. It was a clever medium for explaining the legal historical origins of corporate personhood.

– A woman in her 20’s at this evening’s plenary quoted at length from Lawrence Goodwyn’s “The Populist Moment” – the definitive work of the Populist movement of the 1870s-1890s. The section addressed one of Goodwyn’s key lessons behind the empowerment of the southern farmers for self-governance – their ability to develop radical self-respect

– Buttons, bumper stickers, t-shirts, and many other artistic forms of political expression are on most tables here.

It’s Football Season at ALEC

We know that late summer represents the beginning of football season.

At a plenary session at the Democracy Convention last night, a Wisconsin state legislator spoke about his experience of joining the American Legisltative Exchange Council [ALEC] and attending — actually more like infiltrating — their most recent national conference.

He spoke of a session where a politician publicly stated that ALEC was like a football team where politicians are the players and corporations are the coaches.