Introduction 1.2 Who done it?

I love a good murder mystery. So, as I read the paper and watch the news, I wonder, what is poisoning and crippling our nation? Will the culprits be caught and held accountable? Can we be healthy and prosperous?

I read reports of bad behavior that corrupts our politics and our economy, and grind my teeth. But in better moments, I’m less interested in culprits and more interested in how the systems we create for living determine the boundaries and priorities in our lives. Improvements at the system level have a real impact. Blaming individuals, the media, bankers, the rich, the poor, unions, business, nonprofits, liberals or conservatives just doesn’t help much.

At first I thought the problem was our failure to have clear and honest financial reports from our government. As a nation we tax and spend, but if we do not understand how much money we have or where it has to go, we make poor choices. And very few of us understand the financial reports of the US government. Most people do not even know these reports are readily available every year; it hardly makes the news when they are issued in mid-December.

It seemed like time for America to sit down at our metaphorical kitchen table and go over what we have to spend, what our priorities are, and how to spend what we have. So, I invested several years deciphering the US federal government’s financial reports, and came up with a simple, clear and useful way to improve them. The changes I recommend are described in my book, On the Path to Great Democracy; Clear and Honest Financial Reports (2007).

On my way out the door to promote that book, however, I became convinced the real problem lay deeper. The failure to pay attention to the US Financial Report is a symptom of a system that, by design, creates confusion and delusion: the monetary system itself.

I then set out to read everything I could find on our money and banking systems. This book is the result. After 10 years of intensive study, I’ve concluded the money system is THE most important structural component of a community. It sets the boundaries of commerce, determines who gets rich and stays rich, who becomes poor and stays poor. It determines whether privilege or hard work reigns. It determines whether we work toward a “more perfect Union” or toward extraordinary wealth disparity. Because a money system is a matter of choice, as we shall see, it is a practical reflection of our values.

When we don’t understand the money system, without knowing we don’t, most of us end up in a dark sea swimming into the jaws of sharks, like tuna blithely hoping for the best. We end up arguing back and forth about the best way to keep the financial sharks well fed and the rest of us out of harm’s way – a hopeless cause since, just as tuna is nature’s shark food, our current money system dictates a declining middle class, increasing poverty and a transfer of wealth to the very rich. We end up accepting economic harm as the norm because we fail to understand how the system we have makes these undesirable outcomes inevitable.

That’s no way to run a country. We can change this system.

There are many excellent books out about the latest financial meltdown, which join other excellent books about the previous meltdowns that happen with regularity every 5–12 years. These books are full of jaw-dropping insights and information, and clear patterns. There is a predictable major meltdown every seven years on average, though many authors do their best to convince us the latest catastrophe was somehow a surprising one-of-a-kind event with unique causes. Other pundits say or imply the regular meltdowns are just part of a natural economic cycle, a law of nature – no surprise, just move along, move along, no need to look too carefully at the dead tuna.

There is substantial historical evidence, and a mathematical certainty predicts an even bigger whopper of a meltdown very soon. Some recommend stocking up on gold and guns and planting a garden.

There are other options. Preferably, we will call on our wisest selves NOW and take action before it is too late. Our current money supply is on the high ascending slope of an exponential curve (Chapter 2.7). The meltdowns will inevitably be bigger and bigger until the entire system collapses. If we do not take preventive action now, we can at least educate ourselves, understand alternatives, and increase our options.

Right now we urgently need to get basic information broadly dispersed to inform a constructive national debate. My goal is to stick to the basics. This means there is room to present deeper analysis and supporting evidence for my conclusions. There are links to additional information and discussion forums on the website, USMoney.US.

I welcome your constructive arguments. I’m happy to have my conclusions challenged with evidence. I have also accumulated some puzzling data and welcome fellow puzzlers. I can be reached about the contents of this book at USMoney.US..

We have a choice.

We can learn from each other. When we gather our best ideas, the sum will be greater than the parts. As James Surowiecki explains so well in his highly recommended book, The Wisdom of Crowds, research says we get the best solutions to problems, not from experts or an elite of any kind, but from gathering the ideas of well informed, independent people with diverse points of view.5

When it comes to public decisions, being well informed means understanding how our money system works, not just how to make money or invest it or keep track of it, but about how new money is created, how it’s introduced into the economy, and why it sometimes vanishes. If you understand the basics of our money system, and share your understanding with at least two of your friends, and they engage two of their friends, then we have the makings of a productive problem-solving movement.

Our monetary system is so bizarre, you will likely say many times, “That can’t be true!” before you can accept it for what it is. It took me years. I hope I’m providing you with an entertaining short cut!