We Really, Really Need to Talk About Money
Dora Meade on finding out how money is really created and why we prefer not to talk about it
We Really, Really Need to Talk About Money
By Dora Meade / ecnmy.org
Mar 10, 2016

A few years ago, while in a previous job, I invited people to talk to me about money. I visited children’s centres, mental health centres, drug and alcohol support units and women’s refuges in one borough of London and facilitated sessions about money and finance.

I spoke to some of those people most affected by the spending cuts in the UK that followed the 2008 financial crisis: people out of work, bringing up children alone, fleeing abusive relationships, and families who had recently arrived in the country and were just beginning to find their feet.

For many people, money is a conversation topic they’ll go to great lengths to avoid – and yet here I was, inviting strangers to speak from the heart about it. Getting those people to the sessions wasn’t always easy, but once they’d committed to taking part, the floodgates often opened. Alongside personal finances, we’d reflect on childhood memories of money, the emotions connected to spending, and the relationships in our life most impacted by money. The stress of Christmas, the guilt of splashing out, the confusion over loan contracts, the joy when money comes in, and the anxiety when it goes back out.

Facilitating these sessions, I listened to hundreds of stories about money. There was the young father who took out a £70 payday loan just before Christmas and spent the next two years paying it (and the interest) back. And there was the retiree, left with nothing by adult children who were financially dependent on her. She felt paralysed by her inability to talk about money and couldn’t bring herself to challenge their behaviour.

I learnt that our relationship with money is complex. Our lives are wrapped up in money; it’s everywhere, smoothing out or smothering our day-to-day experience. Despite this, we spend very little time trying to fully understand it. We rarely take the time to think about how we relate to it and even less time asking what money really is.

As a result, I became totally fascinated by the stuff. I wanted to understand what lay behind these stories; why something so common was at the same time so mysterious. I realised I was asking a pretty basic question: where does money actually come from?

That was how I came across Positive Money, a campaign and research organisation raising awareness of how money is created and the impact the current money system has on society.

I discovered that most of our money is created by private banks; and that our banks aren’t simply middlemen between savers and borrowers, taking from the former to give to the latter each time a loan or mortgage is issued. Instead, what happens is that when a bank offers a customer a loan, it actually creates new money out of thin air (well, on a computer). And that this way of doing things means that we can’t have more money and less debt. Most money is debt.

I was shocked to find out that over 97% of the money in the UK system is created as debt in this way. It’s only the remaining 3% that’s made up of the notes and coins created by the Bank of England. The vast majority of our money is created – and allocated – by private profit-seeking banks. As a consequence, it’s fair to say that banks’ lending decisions shape our society. In recent years, bank lending has contributed to the increase in both house pricesand public and private debt.

So if you’ve never heard about the way money is really created, you’re not alone. This is a little understood area of economics. I was amazed by the results of a 2014 poll which found that only 1 in 10 MPs had an accurate understanding of where money comes from. Unbelievable right?

I now work for Positive Money, helping to shape their campaign and develop a network of supporters. I’m committed to raising awareness of how the system actually operates, and to asking people to consider the implications for our society.

At one of our events last year, Martin Wolf, chief economics commentator at the Financial Times, asked “why have we given our greatest social creation – money – over to private, profit-seeking companies?” It’s a good question. Whether or not you agree that money is the greatest social creation, we need to remember that it is exactly that: a human construction. We created money and the monetary system. And we can change it if we want to.

Recently, I delivered a workshop about money to a group of young people. I asked them who they thought should have the power to create money? They were very animated: questioning who could be trusted; how we’d monitor them; what would stop them from putting their own needs over the needs of society? The discussion was lively, creative and impassioned. When they found out how the system actually works, they were left momentarily speechless.

It was a shock to them to discover that such an immense power – the power to create money – lies in the hands of a relatively small number of private banks, with little in the way of democratic oversight. As individuals, we cannot opt out of using money, and so I believe we all need to be part of the debate over who makes it and how it’s best used to benefit each and every one of us.

3.5 ·
1
Trending Today
Thich Nhat Hanh: How We Can Learn to Love Our Enemies
5 min · 4,731 views today · This is a short excerpt from Peacemaking. I often think about this story when I think about the kind of activism I would like to bring into this world. I want to help build a...
How a Lack of Touch Is Destroying Men
Mark Green · 4,506 views today · Why Men Need More Platonic Touch in their Lives
The Coming War on China
John Pilger · 4,286 views today · A major US military build-up – including nuclear weapons – is under way in Asia and the Pacific with the purpose of confronting China. John Pilger raises the alarm on an...
I Am Not Your Negro (2017)
3 min · 4,029 views today · In his new film, director Raoul Peck envisions the book James Baldwin never finished - a radical narration about race in America, using the writer's original words. He draws...
Real Underground Kingdom That Has Existed for Millions of Years Went Unnoticed, Until Recently...
Kid Krunk · 3,872 views today · 28 Stunning Photos Of The World’s Largest Cave
Murdoch and Trump, Sitting at the Tee, S-C-H-E-M-I-N-G
Frankie Boyle · 2,568 views today · Say what you like about Donald Trump but he's already done things people said were impossible, like made Twitter worse. Looking back, the Harambe situation is the closest...
The Charter For Compassion
2 min · 2,536 views today · The principle of compassion lies at the heart of all religious, ethical and spiritual traditions, calling us always to treat all others as we wish to be treated...
Simple Social Experiment Shows We Are More Than The Boxes People Put Us In
3 min · 1,962 views today · We live in a time where we are quick to put people in boxes. Maybe we have more in common than what we think?
How Wolves Change Rivers
4 min · 1,653 views today · When wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park in the United States after being absent nearly 70 years, the most remarkable "trophic cascade" occurred. What is a...
John Lennon's "Imagine," Made Into a Comic Strip
John Lennon. Art by Pablo Stanley · 1,371 views today · This is easily the best comic strip ever made.  Pabl
What Happens When You Rebel Against the Herd
Sofo Archon · 1,310 views today · Are You Truly Living Your Life? You live, but are you living the way you want to live, or the way others want you to live? You choose, but are your choices based on...
"The Myth of Time" - Martin Luther King Jr.
3 min · 1,237 views today · Excerpt from MLK Jr.'s last sermon, "Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution". Delivered at The National Cathedral on March 31, 1968 (4 days prior to his...
A Hauntingly Beautiful Short Film About Life and Death
5 min · 1,234 views today · The Life of Death is a touching handdrawn animation about the day Death fell in love with Life.
Today I Rise: This Beautiful Short Film Is Like a Love Poem For Your Heart and Soul
4 min · 1,153 views today · "The world is missing what I am ready to give: My Wisdom, My Sweetness, My Love and My hunger for Peace." "Where are you? Where are you, little girl with broken wings but full...
Surviving Capitalist Depression
Michael Emero · 1,027 views today · We live in a toxic society filled with toxic people. Even the ones with the best hearts- including ourselves- have been raised in ignorance, with disinformation. Our examples...
Hans Rosling Brilliantly Explains Complexity of Population and Resource Issues Using Simple Tools
3 min · 764 views today · Let me show you the world, says Swedish academic Han Rosling as he demonstrates the dynamics of population growth, child mortality and carbon dioxide emissions. The challenge...
What Would It Take to Stop the Raids?
CrimethInc. Ex-Workers Collective · 756 views today · Responding Effectively to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Attacks
Your Lifestyle Has Already Been Designed (The Real Reason For The Forty-Hour Workweek)
David Cain · 723 views today · Well I’m in the working world again. I’ve found myself a well-paying gig in the engineering industry, and life finally feels like it’s returning to normal after my nine months...
What It Really Means to Hold Space for Someone
Heather Plett · 495 views today · How to be there for the people who need you most
The Price of Certainty
7 min · 345 views today · It’s alarming to see how polarized politics have become in the United States. The wider the gulf grows, the more people seem to be certain that the other side is wrong...
Load More
What's Next
Like us on Facebook?
We Really, Really Need to Talk About Money