Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Ecology of Money: Debt, Growth, and Sustainability

"Modern economics must 'grow' because money borrowed for investment can be repaid only by expanding production and consumption to meet the burden of usurious rates of interest. The roots of this dynamic between debt and growth lay in the financial revolution of the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries in Britain, which establish a new usurious monetary system.

"For the first time in history credit was made widely available, but only on condition of an exponentially increasing debt burden. To pay back debts, production had to increase correspondingly, leading to the industrial revolution, economic 'growth,' and modernity itself. Though private creditors grained a monopoly over the creation of credit, and were disproportionately enriched, the resulting economic growth for a time was great enough to benefit most debtors as well as creditors, ensuring widespread prosperity.

"That is no longer the case. With today's eco-crisis we have reached the limits of growth. We no longer have the natural resources to grow fast enough to pay our debts. This is the real root of our current financial crisis. If we are to live sustainably, our system of money and credit must be transformed. We need a non-usurious monetary system appropriate to a steady-state economy, with capital broadly distributed at non-usurious rates of interest. Such a system was developed by an early nineteenth-century American thinker, Edward Kellogg, and is explored here in depth. His work inspired the populist movement and remains more relevant than ever as a viable alternative to a financial system we can no longer afford."

--  from the blurb on the back cover of The Ecology of Money

The Ecology of Money was published by Lexington Books in 2013 and is available at

A Summary of the Argument of The Ecology of Money in 10 Points:

1. Our ecological crisis is a consequence of the productive effort we must make to meet the demands of our financial system. This crisis is upon us since we no longer have the natural resources to sustain this effort.

2. The roots of this financial-economic dynamic lie in the financial revolution of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries in Holland and England, where credit and finance as we know them were invented.

3. Unfortunately, this financial revolution as completed in England: a) privatized credit, giving bankers a legal monopoly over money creation through issuing loans; b) created a national debt and a central bank to backstop private lending; and c) allowed bankers to charge high (usurious) rates of interest on loans. The Bank of England became the symbol of this "English system," as Alexander Hamilton called it, which was subsequently exported to America and most of the modern world. American populists called it "the money power."

4. Once key sectors of the economy came to depend on money borrowed at usurious rates of interest, it became necessary to keep expanding economic output. The obligation to repay such debts is what forced modern economies into endless "growth." Traditional, steady-state, reciprocal, sustainable economies were displaced by economies relentlessly seeking out new markets, technologies, resources, and laborers, and the industrial revolution -- and what we call "modernity" -- was born.

5. More than two centuries of economic "growth" have given us the miracle of the modern world, with all its astounding wealth and technology. That miracle has also exhausted our planet, which now staggers under the cumulative effects of resource depletion, pollution, overpopulation, and climate change. Insofar as the limits to growth have been reached, we can no longer hope to repay our debts, as in the past, by growing our way out of the crisis.

6. Our "too big to fail" financial system has succeeded in transferring much of this excessive debt onto taxpayers, postponing and likely intensifying the final reckoning. We are further burdened by a dysfunctional political system -- largely corrupted by the same financial interests -- which is less and less responsive to the urgency of reform, which may now be impossible.

7. The now inter-woven ecological and financial crisis is likely to play itself out no matter what we do. If so, the survivors will need to adjust to a dramatic downsizing and a return to sustainable economic practices. If civilization survives, it will need a financial system compatible with a steady-state, non-growth economy.

8. The outlines of such a system actually exist: they were developed by a nineteenth-century American financial theorist, Edward Kellogg. He proposed a decentralized system of public banking, where citizens could borrow on good collateral at a non-usurious rate of interest fixed by law at one percent. Kellogg's system, which inspired American populists, is a model for financing a future sustainable economy.

9. To say that we can no longer tolerate exponential growth as we have known it is not to say that human ingenuity has no future, that profound innovations in human life are no longer possible, or that the vast store of scientific and technical knowledge born of the industrial revolution cannot be adapted to new circumstances. A sustainable, steady-state economy is not necessarily a static or primitive economy, though likely it will be a far more modest and prudent one.

10. Our immediate prospects, however, remain daunting. Human history has long swung between extremes -- boom and bust, feast and famine, peace and war, the rise and fall of civilizations -- and we have no reason to believe our era is exempt from that ancient dynamic. We are a resilient species, and the silver lining of any crisis has always been the opportunity to learn from our mistakes, an opportunity perhaps not otherwise possible. Let's make the best of it.

Pyrrhonism: How the Ancient Greeks Reinvented Buddhism

"Pyrrhonism is commonly confused with scepticism in Western philosophy. Unlike sceptics, who believe there are no true beliefs, Pyrrhonists suspend judgment about all beliefs, including the belief that there are no true beliefs. Pyrrhonism was developed by a line of ancient Greek philosophers, from its founder Pyrrho of Elis in the fourth century BCE through Sextus Empiricus in the second century CE. Pyrrhonists offer no view, theory, or knowledge about the world, but recomend instead a practice, a distinct way of life designed to suspend beliefs and ease suffering.

"Adrian Kuzminski examines Pyrrhonism in terms of its striking similarity to some Eastern nondogmatic soteriological traditions -- particularly Madhyamaka Buddhism. He argues that its origin can plausibly be traced to the contacts between Pyrrho and the sages he encountered in India, where he traveled with Alexander the Great. Although Pyrrhonism has not been practiced in the West since ancient times, its insights have occasionally been independently recovered, most recently in the work of Ludwig Wittgenstein. Kuzminski shows that Pyrrhonism remains relevant, perhaps more than ever, as an antidote to today's cultures of belief."

-- from the blurb on the back cover of Pyrrhonism: How the Ancient Greeks Reinvented Buddhism

Pyrrhonism was published in 2008 by Lexington Books; it is available at

Fixing the System: A History of Populism, Ancient & Modern

"Populism is the genuine 'third way' of politics . . . transcending both the 'big government' policies of the Left and the 'big business' policies of the Right. By decentralizing political and economic power, populism aims to replace top-down with bottom-up politics. This book is an attempt to present populism in its historical context, to retrieve it from the oblivion into which it has been thrust by its opponents, and to demonstrate the promise it holds for the future. At a time when our political process no longer represents ordinary citizens, when disparities of wealth and poverty are enormous and increasing, when irresponsible hubris goes increasingly unchecked among government and corporate leaders, when criminal wars of aggression undermine our international integrity, and when the environmental costs of economic growth threaten the planet itself, it is more important than ever to find alternative and more promising ways of thinking about our political and economic problems . . .

"How far do populists go? By 'property for all' populists means the widespread personal ownership of private capital sufficient to establish the relative economic independence of citizens vis-a-vis one another. Where none are rich enough to dominate others economically or poor enough to be so dominated, populists argue, the public interest rather than private interest is likely to be served. In an earlier agrarian era, populists called for the distribution of land (then the principal form of capital) among citizens, while in modern commercial economies they propose to distribute credit (now the principal form of capital) directly to citizens through various forms of public credit. The most comprehensive system of public credit -- developed by the nineteenth century American populist Edward Kellogg -- proposed to replace our privatized financial system with a decentralized but state-regulated monetary system based on direct low-interest loans to citizens.

"By 'democracy for all' populists mean full and direct participation in empowered local citizen assemblies -- such as those found in ancient city state, and in the town meeting of colonial and early federal America -- suitable confederated together into broader accountable representative bodies, as Jefferson outlined. In calling for a wide distribution and decentralization of both wealth and politics, populism offers a radical but plausible reform of the political and economic system found today in the United States and most other developed countries, where credit and property remain highly concentrated in private hands, and where representatives chosen in impersonal mass elections frustrate democracy by serving private interests rather than the public good. Populism seeks to complete a half-begun American revolution by establishing the full measure possible of individual political and economic liberty. In our time of crisis, this pragmatic program for fundamental social reform deserves serious consideration."

-- from the Preface to Fixing the System

Fixing the System, published in 2008 by Continuum Books, is available at

The Soul

"The Soul proposes a philosophy of reality in which we are souls distinct from our thoughts and our sensations. Imperceptual souls interact with, but cannot be captured by, perceptions. Recognition of the soul as self allows us to avoid reductions of self and reality to thoughts and sensations. Soulful self-recognition suggests instead a respectfully curious indifference to our perceptions, reminiscent of ancient Pyrrhonnian skepticism, sustained by a representationally opaque but mysteriously humanizing suggestion of non-perceptual immortality."

-- from the back cover blurb

"Adrian Kuzminski's The Soul places him in a very small circle of contemporary philosophers whoa re singular, original thinkers. Like a painter stipulating compositional form, subject, colors, and styles, Kuzminski 'stipulates' definitions of perception, sensation, thought, form, contrast, and a host of other notions that allow him to develop a philosophically precise system of the soul, the person and perceptions. Though stipulative in the beginning, the notions are so carefully defined with respect to the insights and oversights of other thinkers that the cumulative effect is a serious, dialectically engaged argument of contemporary philosophy. Kuzminski's approach picks up on the problematics of George Berkeley . . . it is one of the few works in Western philosophy to be healthily informed by Indian and Chinese philosophies. Kuzminski's criticisms of behaviorism (the reduction of thought to sensation) and solipsism (the reduction of sensation to thought) are worth the purchase and study of the book itself. The Soul proves that brilliant, original, philosophical genius has not died."

-- comment by Robert C. Neville

The Soul was first published by Peter Lang in 1994. It is currently out of print but a hard copy and/or pdf of the text can be obtained by contacting the author at