May 18, 2009
Sole Currency: An Inefficient Habit
In daily life, we are used to mixing incommensurable values amongst themselves. This does not seem very difficult to us and it is the even at the basis of a balanced diet. As a witness, take the most modest of kitchen recipes. If, more generally, we take an interest in consumption, we notice that it consists of multiple heterogeneous elements: local work, global work, energy, renewable and non-renewable natural resources.
Why should we reduce these multiple elements to a single unit of account, the Euro? Because the Euro allows us to count and manage the family budget? The crux of the argument is this: the fact that we ingest fats, glucoses and proteins during our meals does not suggest that we believe uniquely in the measurement of calories. In reality, the use of uni-dimensional currency, the Euro, as a universal unit of account comes only from habit. This habit was born in the era when recourse to a single standard, metal money, was the only way to escape an economic space which was confined to barter. This intellectual laziness has since been taken for eternal evidence of the fact that scientific disciplines and institutions are built around money. But this habit has become very inefficient, especially if we hope to steer ourselves toward the construction of a sustainable society. It does not allow us to manage human work, energy, and natural resources in an efficient and sustainable manner. In effect, the development of human work and know-how is desirable because it is at the basis of exchanges between people and society – it is the cement of social cohesion. Energy and natural resources need to be saved in order to preserve the planet and restart equitable exchange between people and society because these rare are taken from the biosphere and we all deserve equal access.
Driving the Economy with One Pedal
The competitive character of a uni-dimensional currency is particularly visible in a period of crisis. On one hand, European political leaders are paralyzed by the risk of economic recession and the consequences for unemployment, inequality, and social unrest and they want to revive consumption above all else. On the other hand, they are adopting a Climate and Energy package that is still not aggressive enough to fight European over-consumption of energy and raw materials. They are driving the economy by using the same pedal to break and add gas. Accidents are guaranteed.
Likewise, in the name of the unification of the European market, we are trying to make all of Europe a homogeneous block with the euro as currency. At the same time, in many communities citizens want to promote shorter circuits between the producer and the consumer, with an eye toward rediscovering the human dimension of production and exchange. We are witnessing, in Europe like elsewhere, a multiplication of local, regional, or specialized currency, following the Japanese example of Fureia Kippu – literally “caring relationship tickets.” – which manages and transfers time dedicated to caring for the elderly from one end of the country to the other. Through these local and regional currencies, we are seeking to rediscover the deep and original meaning of money: a way of maintaining the cohesion of a community through the exchange of goods and services. From this initiative flows an important corollary: there are as many possible currencies as there are communities who decide to consolidate their links through exchange.
The development of IT, internet, and electronic purses offers concrete and practical means of managing a plurality of currencies – or one single currency with multiple dimensions, vectoral money. In time, an exchange market can be established between the different dimensions of this vectoral money.
Already, certain regional currencies are using smart cards. On its side, the global financial crisis has probably dethroned the dollar from its hegemonic position over the global economic and financial system. We are directing ourselves, no doubt very progressively, towards a basket of regional currencies, consisting of the dollar, the euro, and a mix between the Chinese Yuan and Japanese Yen, for global exchange. Here comes the third dimension: fossil energy. In the prolonging of the market for green house gas emissions, and based on the principal of equality of access to natural resources, we are steering progressively towards the allocation of negotiable individual quotas for fossil energy consumption. This also means replacing the taxation of human work, the value-added tax (VAT), by a national resources consumption tax. The negotiable energy and natural resource quotas would affect not just immediate consumption, but also and above all those we call the “ecological backpack,” which is to say the consumption of energy and resources used in the production and transport of the purchased good. If we want to move towards sustainable networks, it is necessary to evaluate this ecological backpack. Public opinion is articulating this need to demand to avoid environmental dumping more and more clearly. The Chinese are asking that we deduct the energy quotas which serve in the production of exports, whereas Americans, on their side, ask that we tax the energy contained in imported goods in order to recreate conditions of fair competition. With different intentions, we arrive at the same conclusion: the necessity to equitably distribute energy quotas and to measure and tax direct and indirect consumption of energy and non-renewable natural resources that are incorporated into final goods.
– The European Union recognizes the need to create a plurality of currencies which can function complimentary to the Euro. This should be managed by a single electronic purse
– Negotiable individual quotes should be created for energy and constitute a separate whole currency
– A National Resources Consumption Tax should replace VAT
– A way of tracking energy and natural resource consumption should be demanded on both internal and international markets
– The European Union should take the initiative at the WTO to make sustainable production chains the basis of an international competition that respects the preservation of our planet.Author : Challenge for Europe