Wednesday, 4 May 2022

Local Finance

In the late 1990s members of the UK Bromsgrove Group came across a Scottish version of the Landlords Game entitled Brer Fox and Brer Rabbit. It appears to have been drawn up as an aid to exploring the political economy of a local municipality in Scotland. Members of the Bromsgrove Group assembled copies of the board and rules, and used it as the basis for wide-ranging discussion. Evidently the Scottish version was designed to pursue issues of local finance of local production and an end to waged slavery. Note, it was the latter point on which Marx took issue with Henry George (see previous blog). The Georgist reforms assume the continued centralisation of finance in the hands of a powerful elite.

The Brer Fox 'n Brer Rabbit game is available to be printed out free on the Douglas Social Credit website, at the very base of the SOCIAL ART page . A tour round the sites of the Brer Fox 'game' offers a view of the local economy and its relationship with the national economy at the point when the board was drawn up (1913). We can assume that there were small farms, fisheries and common land to be seen locally. Equally, each city, town or village might feature a Poorhouse, a jail, newspaper offices and railway station. But Westminster Abbey, the House of Lords, and even a branch of Selfridges, an early supermarket would not be found in a Scottish urban settlement of 1913. What might have been in the minds of the creators of this game provides much food for thought.

The two financial institutions, the BANK and the PUBLIC TREASURY are centre stage, in the middle of the Board. The Game was devised in the second decade of the 20th century. At this time, in the UK, Fabians, Guild Socialists, members of the Cooperative movement, Trade Unionists and a wide variety of socialists and social reformers, including some anthroposophists, were in close collaboration. All puzzled about the role of finance in determining policy in throughout the political economy as a whole. But it was not until after the First World War that Clifford Hugh Douglas was in a position to make his analysis of the financial system available for study. He looked at the financial causes of war.

The First World War broke out a year after the Brer Fox game came onto the market. The trauma of the war led Clifford Hugh Douglas and prominent members of the UK Guild Socialist movement to study the financial causes of the war. Those studies gave rise to a massive literature that was discussed and debated through the worldwide movement for economic democracy known as Douglas Social Credit.

In 1900 the local social order could still be understood by the ordinary householder, whose home belonged in a specific place on the local map. Known individuals owned or rented property in the town, and provided services to the local community. Over the course of the 20th century global finance came to dominate the political, economic and cultural spheres of every local municipality, so that now, as explained in the Spring 2022 edition of New View, the Bank for International Settlements (BIS), the central banker to the world's central banks, has the potential to handle a global currency that would dominate the political economy of the entire world. As Gavin Tang explains:

"[A] number of wealthy banking families control the world's economy indirectly via the BIS control of the world's central banks. They also control the world's corporations via a system of ownership and cross-ownership that has at its apex of power in the non-publicly owned Vanguard investment entity."

The situation we face today is complex and precarious. As Tang further explains, in his lengthy article entitled "Imagining an alternative to the banking system of the Great Resent", the necessity is for development of a "commons banking system that can be put in place when the inevitable total collapse of the capitalist banking system occurs. It may well be that discussion of local threefolding ideas through study of the Brer Fox and Brer Rabbit Game facilitates development of commons banking as suggested by Tang.

NOTE: Understanding Life and Debt Blogs for April and May provide sketchy thoughts possible routes out of the financial quagmire currently facing humanity. See the Sheffield Collection for useful study material. See Frances Hutchinson (2010) Understanding the Financial System for references to relevant literature on the subject.

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