May 5 1996 JOHN TURMEL'S TRIP TO NEW ZEALAND
As I was the major financial backer of the development of the Greendollar Local Employment Trading System (LETS) software back in 1984, I was invited by Maureen Mallinson, the publisher of the Greendollar Quarterly, to be a guest speaker at the New Zealand Greendollar National Meeting near Thames on the Coromandel peninsula on April 21 and April 23. My talk was to be on the wisdom of all governments using Greendollars to create large-scale national employment as successfully as local organizations were creating local employment.
Greendollars are basically casino chips backed up with work and as an electrical engineer and professional gambler, I derived the equation for interest-free currency systems as Laplace transform = 1/s with interest-bearing ones as 1/(s-i). I had been politically promoting the use of interest-free monetary software since 1979 and in 1981, I was the only candidate running with a disk with a "Greenback" National Employment Trading System.
In 1984, I heard that Michael Linton had started up a Greendollar Local Employment Trading System (LETS) in Courtenay, B.C. and was looking for development funds. I checked that its Laplace Transform was also 1/s (interest-free) and saw the utility of a local level test model as a good way to help promote the national and international model and granted him $22,000.
I wasn't sure I was going to be able to make the trip to New Zealand as I was being sentenced on March 31 for operating the largest private Poker and Blackjack casino in Canadian history but having been acquitted of the same charge in 1989 before expanding to 27 tables and 122 employees operating 24 hours a day and seven days a week, I was facing a maximum of 12 years in prison, two for keeping a gaming house and 10 for winning over a million dollars. Fortunately, as the police had dubbed the raid "Project Robin Hood" and I had spent most of it on more LETSystem promotion and development, the judge sentenced me to probation and community service and I was freed to make the trip.
In 1991, I had hosted Don Bethune, a monetary reformer and member of the Democratic Party of New Zealand on his North American speaking tour and he managed to get me a speaking engagement at the Democratic National meeting which was being held on the very same week-end.
My lady, Pauline, and I arrived on Friday morning. Ottawa to Toronto (1 hour) to Honolulu (10 hours) to Auckland (8 hours). We were struck by New Zealand's lush green mountainous landscape. We were met by Adrienne Vale, the co-ordinator of the Auckland LETS. She gave us a tour of Auckland and showed us their Greendollar store based in the unemployed people's center. We didn't get to meet Sue Bradford who originated the Auckland Greendollar system but more on her later. Then we rented a car and drove up to the conference site.
I would say that though New Zealanders drive on the wrong side of the road, I only found myself driving on the right side of the road twice during the whole trip with no jarring consequences.
What amazed me were the very large herds of cattle and sheep until I realized that their warm climate meant they didn't need any barns. It probably accounts for the very green pastures.
At the Greendollar meeting were people from all over New Zealand including the mayor of Thames, Alisdair Thompson who happened to be a former Social Credit monetary reformer. In my one hour talk, I not only read my poem "Ballad of the Mayor and the LETS" showing how Greendollars could be used by local municipalities but also pointed out the historical examples of government use of interest-free currency systems to create employment touching on British wooden "tallies" between 1100 and 1694, the use of Roman "Aes Grave" copper currency while they were a great empire, the use of American colonial paper "Continentals" before they were banned by the British king and precipitated the revolution (don't believe it was over a tax on tea), Lincoln's paper Treasury Greenback currency and Guernsey Island's long-standing and current use of their own national currency as successful examples of government-run Green currency systems.
I then pointed out that the historical example of local Wampum currency used by North American Indians which like Greendollars, allowed each member to issue his own bead worth a horse or a pelt operated more like the LETS which allows individual members to issue their own Greendollar IOUs.
Then I spent time explaining how Jesus Christ had advocated an interest-free monetary system and had condemned interest as the yoke of oppression and debt slavery and had given his life in the fight against this greatest crime against humanity, usury.
We spent that night at Roger and Maureen Kennerly's farm, both staunch Greendollar members who ran the local natural therapies clinic and also kept chickens, ducks and pigs. We went to sleep that night with the windows open and I think a call must have gone out to every mosquito in the county that there was fresh imported blood in town. I woke up the next morning with dozens and dozens of red welts on my face and arms though they didn't itch. For the next several days, I had to remind everybody I met that I didn't have leprosy, only mosquito bites.
On Saturday April 22, we drove down to the Epworth retreat near Piarere south of Hamilton for the Democratic party meeting. The Democrats belong to an "Alliance" of five smaller political parties including the Greens, the Liberals, the New Labour and the Maori Mano Motuhakes. I find this quite astonishing as most leaders of small parties prefer to be the big fish in a small pond rather than join a team in the larger pond. Though have several members in the House, with proportional representation in next year's elections and with over 20% of the popular vote, they should be well represented in the next Parliament.
I spoke for an hour to the Democrats who had many members of the former Social Credit monetary reform party and even though the Greendollar social credits I was talking about was not the form of Social Credit they had been talking about, they became very enthused to find out that Government didn't have to give away free "funny money" to balance the money supply to prices but could lend interest-free Greendollars to eliminate the imbalance in the first place.
I told them that Greendollar members were using social credits that they had been preaching about for 70 years and it was time they should start practicing what they were preaching too. I installed the Greendollar software on their computer at the meeting for them to practice with and nothing beats a working system to convince people of its real potential. Party leader, John Wright invited me down to speak in Christchurch on the South Island on the following week.
On Sunday April 23, we were back at the Greendollar conference where I spoke for 90 minutes on ways to improve the operation of the systems. They were organizing inter-system trading but there were troubles between systems as some systems were buying more from other systems than was being bought back. I pointed out that most the problems they had discussed could be cured with one large national database accomplished by all systems uploading their databases to one person who could append them all together and download the whole national system back to everyone.
As they had no way to knowing if a service members wanted was available somewhere on another system without a complete database, the only problem was accounting. But some of their systems had done away with the computer credits altogether and were using paper Greendollars which eliminated 99% of the accounting overhead. They should all follow that example.
I also pointed out that third parties could accept the notes without being members as long as they knew they could spend them somewhere, like many Canadians accept Canadian Tire money from Canada's largest hardware chain knowing where they can spend it, and in this way, paper Greendollars would be invaluable advertising to third parties.
Finally, I pointed out the importance of a store which could act as a casino cashier's cage. The weakness of the standard Greendollar system is that half the accounts have to be in the negative so the other half can be positive and nobody likes to be in the negative, a major impediment to trading. With a store where people can drop off goods for sale, it allows the store to hold the negative balance while more people may leave with positives and be more willing to spend.
In the same vein of storing goods to back up Greendollars, I pointed out that provision should be made for the elderly who own a home or other assets to pledge it to the system and be given open Greendollar credit lines with their commitments to be paid from their estate after they die. Rather than borrowing money for those services and losing the interest over time, they can get the full value and enable more working Greendollar members to go into the positive.
Of course, I emphasized the advantage of giving local government a Greendollar account to facilitate larger municipal employment creation and was told that the town of Nelson did have a Greendollar account. I hope to check this out and urge the LETS operators to immediately grant them a large credit limit with which to undertake such local improvement projects. Once government is accepting Greendollars in taxation to pay for those projects, everybody in the whole community would accept them since everybody needs the wherewithal to pay their taxes.
Monday April 24, we drove up to Hamilton and stayed with Don Bethune, a former Hamilton city councillor, and his wife Mary. That evening, we supped with Democrat organizer Doug Lever and his wife Leslie and Cliff Tait and his wife Joyce. Cliff, a former Democrat candidate and now a Hamilton city councillor, is best know for his record-breaking solo flight "around the world in 80 days" detailed in his book "Flight of the Kiwi." Cliff invited me to participate in a musical evening where they had an organ and a couple of accordions. I don't often play with others but found out that New Zealand has a lot of accordionists.
Cliff invited me to address other Hamilton councilors at the "Funding Local Government" seminar at Waikato University. There, I met Bill Rogers, a computer science professor, who is going to try to introduce study of the Greendollar software to his classes.
Over the next few days, Cliff and Don managed to get me on the "Coast to Coast" program on TV4 for a 6-minute interview by Kay Gregory. There was a take-over battle going on between the locally-owned power network and a large American company trying to buy them out and I pointed out that North York Hydro in Ontario was issuing Hydro Dollar gift certificates which could be traded like Greendollars and are backed with electric power and any smaller company could do the same though I doubted the large bank-connected networks would be too enthusiastic about it. I also had a 20 minute interview on News Radio SB with Mike Hight who saw quite readily that like poker chips, there could be no inflation if there was no interest. Of course, I plugged the Hamilton Greendollar system every time I could.
Mary Bethune took us to visit "Kiwi House" where we got to see some of those rare birds. I couldn't help but think that these funny looking but plump birds would look good on the dinner table. Then we went to the "Glow-worm caves." They're tiny thin little worms that shine light. They hang to the cave ceilings and drop strands of sticky webbing. Prey see the light, think it's the end of the tunnel and fly up to get caught. The cave ceiling looked just like a starry night. Quite a show.
On Friday April 28, we were invited to go stay at the home of Ron and Yvonne Gilberd in Te Akau high up in the mountains south of Hamilton. With no city lights, we had a great view of the stars in the southern hemisphere and saw the immensity of the Milky Way for the very first time. Ron had been a candidate for the Social Credit party 5 times and was enthusiastic about starting a Greendollar system in his area. They raised cattle and sheep and had just received a load of 10-day- and 17-day-old calves. They had these "calfeterias" which were large plastic pails with nipples connected to straws and it was quite a show watching the calves jostling each other for a nipple even though there were enough for all. The younger calves came right up to us but the older ones kept their distance.
On Monday May 1, I had to leave to drive to Auckland to fly out to Christchurch and Pauline decided to stay behind. While I was gone, she attended a moto-cross rally, went cross-mountain riding on a three-wheeled motorbike, helped in the shearing shed, visited the hot springs and even witnessed a "home-kill" of 3 steers which were butchered and stored in a cooler truck in less than one hour. More and more people were invited to hear her explain how Greendollars work. Kevin Roach came to the right conclusion stating "Interest is the killer."
Before I left, Ron gave me a book about Bruce Beetham, the first really influential Socred leader in Parliament. What really broke my heart was when I found out that while he was mayor of Hamilton, he had wanted to finance municipal projects with interest-free "rates vouchers," tax-credits but couldn't even get it on the agenda of the Hamilton city council who were too busy passing a 20% tax increase. When he later got elected to Parliament, he organized a large barter trade with Fiji island but Prime Minister Muldoon scuttled the deal preferring to borrow money and pay interest to international banks. Talk about having the banker's interest at heart.
In Auckland, I stayed with Alan and Annette Efford. He is another monetary reformer who immediately decided he was going to join the Auckland Greendollar system. His daughter was also the four-time New Zealand accordion champion who had competed internationally. They had video-tape of her playing and I learned the difference between a kid like me who practiced one hour a day and her who practiced ten.
On Tuesday May 2, I flew off to Christchurch and was met by John Wright and his wife Beverly. That night, we went out to the first casino in New Zealand. The playing area was not much bigger than my Topaz casino and had about as many tables though they didn't have any real Poker. They had Blackjack, Roulette and some Caribbean Stud Poker which is house-banked game. My usual habit to disguise the fact I'm counting the cards at Blackjack is to bet the minimum until a really positive shoe comes along, then announce I'm leaving soon and betting it all until the end of the shoe. It would look strange to go from $5 bets to $100 bets and then back to $5 bets at the beginning of a new shoe, a sure clue that it's a card counter. This way, I look like someone who's just taking a shot before going home. I ended up losing $50 while John Wright won $50.
He had arranged a 30-minute interview on Plains FM with Joe Pounsford, another staunch old Socred who had run in 1960, 63, 66, 69, 72, 74, 84, 87, and 1990. What commitment. I again pointed out the power of giving the municipality an account on the Christchurch Greendollar system which is the largest in the country with almost 400 members. That night, I spoke for 90 minutes to some Democrats and Gordon Hamblyn and his friend Dave came from the Greendollar system. When one fellow asked Gordon what LETS had actually done for him, he said "When I go to a LETS market, I can afford anything. I bought a camera for G$200. I could never have parted with 200 Kiwi dollars which I need for my power, telephone, rates but I could pay 200 Greendollars because all it meant was that I'd have to mow a few more lawns, sell a little more honey." The fellow joined that night with several others.
On Wednesday May 3, Joe Pounsford told me he was participating in a demonstration in front of the New Zealand Reserve Bank, the equivalent of the Bank of Canada. As Canada's "interest-rate protester" having picketed the Bank of Canada branches around the country weekly for five years, I couldn't resist. I bought a paste-board, printed "Abolish Interest Rates" and took part. I got a lot of thumbs up as I said "World's shortest prayer, just add 'Amen'" and "Pleasant thought for the day." I was also interviewed by Peter Matthias of the Christchurch Press whose paper also came out and took pictures of our demonstration. I don't think they did the story.
On Thursday May 4, back in Auckland, all sorts of monetary protests were going on because the Asian Development Bank was meeting there. Sue Bradford had organized massive protests which made news around the world with clashes with the police over four days. She was finally arrested.
Also in Auckland to speak against the Development Bank was Leonor Briones of the Philippine "Freedom From Debt Coalition." We attended her talk and broached the subject of Greendollars. She had heard of it but in Britain. I hope she uses the software to get her country working. She pointed out that they had 60 million people and owed 30 billion dollars. I pointed out Canada had 30 million and owed 1,800 billion dollars. That took her breath away.
On Friday May 5, Alan Efford and I went to court to see Sue be released upon the condition she not picket until the bank delegates had left. We both joined the Auckland Greendollar system that day. I offered to sell my banking poetry in their store. Then we went off to picket the Asian Development Bank ourselves on their last day. Alan had printed up a sign which read "Mort-gage = Death-gamble." We were the only protesters there and we got within 20 meters of the front door as the bankers were leaving. As they went by, I pointed to the LETS disk I wear on my lapel and said "Interest-free money program spreading on the internet." Most spoke English and looked stunned. I guess they won't forget Sue and they won't forget me.
What's funny is that there was a show on Don Brash, the Governor of the New Zealand Reserve Bank, where he said that as a devout Presbyterian, he was trying to be a Christian economist. What a contradiction. The country's head usurer thinking Christ would approve of his money-lender activities.
Chris Leitch, another committed monetary reformer got me interviewed on the Radio Pacific show with Mark Bennett but even though I kept trying to talk about a National Employment Trading System, all he wanted to talk about was how much money I had made as a gambler. I complained that they were not offering Poker and he pointed out that Harrah's was building a large casino right in down-town Auckland and he thought they would certainly have Poker. I hope so.
On Saturday May 6, Pauline joined me and we attended a meeting of the Alliance where the leadership was passed on from Sandra Lee to Jim Anderton. I spoke to a sub-group of about 70 people for an hour once again pointing out how LETS could work for government. Later John Wright introduced me to the Alliance council.
Besides John Wright of the Democrats who is pro-LETS, I got a chance to speak to Jeannette Fitzsimons of the Greens who already is a LETS member from Thames, Sandra Lee of Mano Motuhake who mentioned that the Maoris already do a lot of barter, and finally the new Alliance leader Jim Anderton of the New Labour Party. With three of his five parties already in favour of barter employment software, I hope the Alliance picks up the LETS disk and runs with it as their national NETS monetary program.
That evening, we dined with Carey Wilson and his wife Mary Tierney. Carey gave one beautiful example of how the debt problem could be solved. "A salesman goes to a hotel in the morning and pays $50 for his night's stay. The hotelier goes to the butcher and pays his $50 bill for beef. The butcher goes to the baker and pays his $50 bill for bread. The baker goes to the auto mechanic who pays his $50 bill for a tune-up. The mechanic goes to the hotel and pays his $50 tab. The salesman comes back and says that he can't stay the night and asks if he can have his deposit back. The hotelier gives him back his $50." It didn't have to be a $50 federal bill. It could have been a $50 Greendollar bill and the debts would have all been repaid in the same way. Nice example.
On Monday May 8, Alan Efford brought us to the airport and we started our journey home. Considering I went there with no plans other than to attend the Greendollar meeting, I am still amazed at the convergence of opportunities to talk monetary reform.
But the best surprise was when I got home and checked my e- mail to find that the Australian Parliament had just endorsed LETS as a valuable employment creation system:
Date: Wed May 10 05:25:38 1995 From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Martin Chadwick) Subject: Parliament endorses LET scheme To: email@example.com
From Blue Mountains Gazette Apr 26 1994
PARLIAMENT ENDORSES LET SCHEME
Amendments to the Social Security Act have been passed by the House of Representatives which confirm the role of Local Exchange Trading Schemes (LETS) in the community.
These schemes allow people to exchange goods and services for non-cash credit points, which are called 'ecos' in the Blue Mountains and 'waratahs' in the Hawkesbury.
When Maggie Deahm was first elected to Parliament, the operation of the LETS scheme in the Blue Mountains was threatened by the Department of Social Security, which had ruled that 'ecos' should count as if they were cash for the purpose of calculating income which could reduce social security benefits. This effectively discouraged the people who could get the greatest benefit from LETS from participating in the scheme.
"LETS members came to me for help", Ms Deahm said. "I began lobbying the Minister for a change to this ruling, arguing that the advantages of staying active and keeping skills and contacts up to date helped jobseekers and other disadvantaged people in our community and the scheme deserved our support."
"I am pleased that the Minister has taken note of my submission and proceeded to put this amendment through Parliament to protect LETS schemes."
Speaking on the amendments in Parliament, Maggie Deahm said:
"LETS is a very important organization. It benefits unemployed and under employed people... and keeps their skills going. People are not going to lose their skills while waiting for a job to come up. It was a community initiative."
"The great thing about the scheme is that it encompasses a wide range of workers including builders, plumbers, accountants, people doing tax returns, babysitters and lawn mowers. It is extremely beneficial."
The Chair of the Caucus Community Services Committee, Garrie Gibson, Member for Moreton, praised Maggie's work.
"There is one particular amendment that I am particularly pleased about and it is as a result of some very good work on the part of the Member for Macquarie (Ms Deahm), which is why we now call this clause the Deahm amendment. She put in some outstanding lobbying and presentation of the facts, figures and relevant arguments as to why this should occur. She deserves personal congratulation for the achievement of this amendment"
Thanks to all our new friends in New Zealand. We hope to visit you again soon.
John and Pauline
Send a comment to John Turmel