I read a report on the third annual Post-Capitalism Conference that took place earlier this month having changed the title of the conference to “Decolonizing Economics.” It is part of the ongoing effort to connect socio-economic activism with Indigenous rights activists which is all very good work encouraging a deeper understanding the sacred nature of our world, a system of systems we all depend on. Unfortunately it was yet another conference failing to address the dominant role that money plays in every issue and what can be done about it.
Part of the problem I think is adhering to the conventional definition of capitalism which I think perpetuates a fundamental misunderstanding of what capitalism is. This leaves a large hole in people’s economic understanding. As John Kenneth Galbraith said, “The problem of the modern economy is not a failure of a knowledge of economics; it’s a failure of a knowledge of history.” However, the abridged histories we are all familiar with, which leave out the monetary thread, are of little help.
What is Capitalism?
“Capital” we know typically is wealth in the form of money or other physical assets and “ism” means a distinctive practice, system, or philosophy. So, capitalism can be defined as a wealth philosophy, but more specifically it is a money system. Thus, understanding money is key to understanding capitalism because capitalism is a specific kind of money system, and it can be changed.
Capitalism emerged in 15th century Europe as the accumulated capital of the financiers began to translate into power over not just the economy but the governments of Europe. “He who has the gold rules.” England however had its own long successful sovereign monetary system, and it became the next target of the capitalists. Operating out of the Bank of Amsterdam in the 17th century they funded a propaganda campaign that stirred great animosity against the Catholic King James II. Then they funded the invasion by Prince William III of Orange, called the Glorious Revolution as hardly a shot was fired. The King was deposed, and the ‘Dark Prince’ William III took the throne in 1689. Five years later in 1694 he turned England’s monetary system over to the capitalists who had funded his rise to power and who owned the newly formed Bank of England. The City of London became the new center of power…