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.

Democracy Convention – Day 2

Democratizing Money, Democratizing the Constitution and Building a Democracy Movement in the USA

It was a dizzying day of education and action in Madison. Here are 10 reflections of my experiences, observations and comments.

1. Plenary sessions are streamed live on Watch the first 2 days plenary sessions and other workshops at

2. People are increasingly interested in taking control of our corporatized money system. The workshop on Democratizing Money was wall-to-wall with people. I spoke on the need, as affirmed in the Constitution, to retake power and authority to coin money through issuing and circulating US debt-free money. This would unshackle our nation from the economic dependency of banking corporations via interest payments. I shared information about HB 6550, the National Emergency Employment Defense [NEED] Act and the work of the American Monetary Institute. A description of the NEED Act is at

3. A movement to fundamentally amend the US Constitution, or any other movement, must address issues of race, white privilege, class and other issues that divide people who have been oppressed. That was the clear message of several presenters at the daylong Move to Amend Affiliates Gathering. At least 50 people pre-registered for this 2-day skill-building and strategy session.

4. There were several very informative skill building sessions addressing Earned Media and Lobbying Public Officials at the MTA Affiliates Gathering. These will soon be posted on (probably in the Tool Kit section). There were also several excellent handouts provided. One focusing on corporate personhood “Talking Points” will be posted on in the next few days.

5. Madison and Dane county, Wisconsin have paved the way in passing ballot initiatives calling for an end to corporate personhood and the legal doctrine that money is speech. Other communities have worked to pass variations of such resolutions. Many more are in various stages of development.

The following reflections are based on the evening plenary, Building a Democracy Movement in the USA.

6. Ben Manski, Chair of the Convention, said the fundamental question of our time is “Who rules?” A democracy movement must be built to win, to acquire the capacity to self-govern.

7. George Friday of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee and Green Party felt the 3 most important steps to take in when we return home are (1) pass resolutions against corporate personhood and wanting our war dollars to come home, (2) build relationships with people unlike ourselves, and (3) have a party. It’s very important that is these troubled times that we take care of ourselves.

8. Dr. Margaret Flowers, one of the key organizers of the upcoming October 6 Stop the Machine actions in DC and key single-payer activist, believes lobbying and working on elections at the present time is basically worthless as our political system is broken. The disconnect between supermajority public views and political votes on taxing the rich, ending the wars, corporate welfare, creating jobs, clean energy, getting money out of politics prove the point that corporations and the military have captured our public officials. We must build a grassroots democracy movement.

9. Nichols, author and writer for the Nation and Progressive, quoting Walt Whitman, said democracy is not of the vote but of the human spirit. It has almost nothing do with the voting booth but whether we are human beings. Politics isn’t ultimately about voting but of equality. He very assertively spoke about the success of people who have created their own media and helped them “leap over” corporate media – and called for all of us to become more adept at using all communication technologies. He also said we must overcome our fear of the Constitution. It’s protected us a little bit. But we’ve got to mess with it. Get money out of politics. People are people. Corporations are corporations. And people are superior to corporations.

10. Finally, I observed to David Cobb this evening that the movement against corporations has come along way over the past 15 years. The energy directed at corporations is now rapidly evolving. For years, when activists at all focused on corporations, it was directed on one or more “harms” or “abuses” (the list of which is virtually endless). What we are now seeing is an evolution to awareness and energy focused on redressing corporate rights. That is quite a shift – from a defensive one-at-a-time approach to an affirmative declaration that human beings alone (include nature as well) should possess inalienable rights. It’s been quite a ride. And it’s just beginning!

Democracy Convention – Day 1

Opening Ceremony / Keynote Addresses

The Democracy Convention in Madison, WI opened tonight with a moving performance of the Call for Peace Native American drum dance group. Two dancers, from tribes located in Wisconsin, combined ritualistic music with dance, including a Circle Dance with more than a dozen hoops, symbolizing unity and harmony of all people of all races and backgrounds.

Mayor Paul Soglin of Madison provided greetings to the hundreds of attendees. Observing what has taken place in Wisconsin since the beginning of the year, he said the actions of Governor Walker over the last 6 months was the result of what happens when we don’t pay attention. The 2 lessons he’s learned since the beginning of the year are (1) investing in infrastructure and education is what improves society and (2) we can’t let conditions take care of themselves.

Ben Manski, Chair of the Convention and Director of the Liberty Tree Foundation, felt that the event was the culmination of hard work of many people involved in many individual movements for democracy that had matured – beginning with resistance of the WTO in Seattle.

Tom Hayden, drafter of the Port Huron Statement which called for participatory democracy, not simply representative democracy in the 1960’s, commented that democracy in the US today is fragmented with our democratic structure build on a historical and present destruction of people and cultures – from Native Americans to the nation’s we are at war with at the moment.

There is a current conflict between the progressive and reactionary forms of populism, Hayden said. Democratic movements always divide over those who’ve been radicalized and want more and those who are moderate and are content with modest gains. Victories of any size also fragment movements. The ruling class is also divided in times of social turmoil – between moderates who are willing to make concessions and solidify most of their power and wealth and those who are absolutists, feeling that to give in on any demand represents a loss of status and power. These absolutists make up a countermovement – which is what we’re experiencing today with attacks on progressive/populist economic and political programs and rules.

One of the major struggles between progressive populist movements for democratic change and counter-movements is over memory, since a large part of current movements is based on the memory and lessons learned from earlier ones.

He said authentic social change always begins with participatory democracy on the margins and ends up impacting representative democracy (elections). Unlike other nations, one device that has always undercut the growing movement for democracy has been war. The US frontier/expansionist culture has been effective at distracting attention from domestic concerns and diverted class and social conflicts by pushing people of color and the poor off “to the frontier” to fight wars or settle lands.

He was encouraged by the recent AFL-CIO statement against the Afghanistan war but cautioned us to pay attention to the “Long War” Pentagon doctrine (calling for perpetual war for 80 years – we’ve 10 years in). The domestic effects of this Long War doctrine are reductions of civil liberties (and difficulties in organizing) and in further domestic economic and social deterioration.

He ended by noting the similarities between the 1950’s and today. Just as the awareness and actions of the Beatniks and Montgomery bus boycotts were the precursors of the organizing for peace and civil rights of the 1960’s, what happened in Madison earlier this year may very well be the precursor to the more profound movement for change in the period ahead.

Cheri Honkla, founder of the Kensington Welfare Rights Union in Philadelphia and organizer of many poor-people’s marches nation-wide, was the final speaker. She said we are living in truly historic times. We must stop trying to adjust to a lower standard of living. To be silent in these times is to betray the millions who are without work, health insurance, or a home while bankers received trillions.

She said fear is being used as a weapon to silence and terrorize us. History has shown when people are no longer immobilized by fear, movements happen. Overcoming fear has allowed thousands of families she has worked with to take over abandoned homes and fight foreclosures. Our quest should be to create an entirely new cooperative society – where people are in control of banks and other institutions that currently oppress people.

By the way, Honkala is running this November to become Sheriff of Philadelphia – so she can stop throwing people our of their homes due to foreclosures.

On a personal note, I have the good fortune to be staying in a cohousing community in Madison called Arbco Commons. With the inspiration and perspiration of several Quakers and others, the 3-year old 40-unit facility is a center of intentional community living and activism in this area. More information about the community is at

Democracy Convention Final Invitation

Received this late yesterday…

One thousand caring, committed people, ready for democracy.

Hundreds of workshops and panels.

Two hundred presenters.

Nine conferences.

Five days.

One Convention.

It all begins tomorrow. If you are moved to walk, pedal, drive, locomotive, or fly to downtown Madison, do it. Because the world begins again tomorrow.

At noon, registration opens up at the Atrium of the downtown campus of Madison (Area Technical) College. Come on down, check in, get your commemorative button (and name tag). Meet other convention goers. Visit the people staffing the informational, book, and chotchke tables.

At 7:00pm, the Call for Peace Drum and Dance troop open the convention with inspiration. They will immediately be followed by Madison Mayor Paul Soglin’s welcome to the city. And then our two incredible keynote speakers, Tom Hayden and Cheri Honkala.

The convention runs through Sunday. You will be amazed at the intensity and breadth of the offerings at this gathering. I hope you’ll also note that everything at the convention comes back to one common challenge: Building a democracy movement for the U.S.A..

We have posted everything on the website. Check it all out at

And then –depending on where you hail from– come on down, over, or up to the Democracy Convention in Madison.

In Solidarity,

Ben Manski

Executive Director, Liberty Tree

Chair, Democracy Convention