I wouldn’t have to worry about my student loans, unpaid bills and delinquent income taxes and rising rent any more if I could get just one Federal Reserve Note for every time I hear someone say “The NEED Act sounds great! But it’ll never happen.” Or “It’s too good to be true.” “Congress will never pass it.” As if we naively expected the United States Congress to enact our legislative demands without a fight. As if the completely abstract “State,” “The System” or even the actual “Money Power” that we are all either unconsciously or unwillingly enslaved to is anywhere near as powerful and as impervious to grassroots change as Hollywood and our mainstream media would have us believe. Resistance is fun not futile. “Those who are peaceful and indifferent are forgotten,” according to Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, “they never know the fighting joy of living.”[i]
Take for an example an article that Erving Goffman cited from The New Yorker in his landmark text Asylums which described how the New York City Police and Fire Departments, along with the Department of Water Supply, Gas, and Electricity conceded defeat to the swarms of anonymous children who ‘wrench’ open fire hydrants to recreate and cool off from the summer heat. The authorities provided special perforated hydrant spray-caps to reputable groups and individuals as a compromise to the children to preserve the city’s water supply.[ii]
Goffman also described how asylum inmates would collectively teas their staff, shout slogans, boo, bang their food trays on tables, start food fights.[iii] He noticed further that asylum staff would selectively tolerate and permit or even periodically promote certain persistent prohibited, disruptive behaviors, especially during the holiday season, so as to preserve institutional order.[iv] Goffman also observed that such behaviors were more commonly studied with regards to political uprising.[v]
Frances Fox Piven and Richard Cloward describe and indeed advocate economic and social disruption as the most effective means of forcing political economic elites to make concessions to poor people based on their historical comparative analysis of twentieth century grassroots Poor People’s Movements. But what exactly is movement? “A social movement is a formally organized group that acts consciously and with some continuity to promote or resist change through collective action” according to the Robert A. Goldberg, author of Grassroots Resistance, Social Movements in Twentieth Century America.[vi]
Piven and Cloward emphasize “collective defiance as the key distinguishing feature” of effective grassroots protest movements.[vii] What “the people won was a response to their turbulence and not their organized numbers.”[viii] Piven and Cloward unequivocally advocate strategies which “escalate the momentum and impact of disruptive protest at each stage in its emergence and evolution.”[ix] “Thus mobs of unemployed workers were granted relief in the 1930s: striking industrial workers won higher pay and shorter hours: and angry civil rights demonstrators were granted the right to desegregated public accommodations in the 1960s.”[x]
The sit-down strike “admirably suited to the unorganized struggle of the mid-1930s. A small number of workers could sit down on the line and stop production, without benefit of much advance planning or advance commitment….a few sit down strikes could, and did stop an entire corporation. Thus, relatively small-scale and spontaneous actions could bring management to a heel. Most of the sit down strikes ended with gains for the workers.”[xi]
Piven and Cloward’s research validates Margaret Mead’s iconic assertion “never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world: indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” Erica Chenoweth encouragingly describes how “no government can withstand a challenge of 3.5% of its population without either accommodating the movement or (in extreme cases) disintegrating” in her landmark Ted Talk. The obvious and hopefully relieving implication is that we do not require a significant majority of the US population to engage in direct action, lobby for the NEED Act or even become monetarily literate in order for us to successfully leverage Congress into passing the NEED Act into law based on Piven and Cloward’s analysis of successful poor people’s movement’s.
How do we begin to actually build an audience of several million people as struggling, grassroots organizers however? Derek Sivers’ describes how any “lone nut” such as you or I can easily create a crowd in his landmark Ted Talk How to Start a Movement. The lone nut simply needs to publicly embrace and empower her first two followers as equals, thereby enabling more followers to emulate the behavior of the lone nut.
I have personally witnessed and indeed unwittingly aided in the dramatic, viral growth of a grassroots movement. I learned a lot from the experience. AdBusters originally called for twenty thousand radical grassroots activists to Occupy Wall Street in order to shut down the financial district and the stock exchange until congress enacted our one demand which should have been Dennis Kucinich’s National Emergency Employment Defense Act in hindsight. I admittedly didn’t think it was even worth discussing demands the early Saturday afternoon meetings we struggled through in Thompkins Square Park which was usually never larger than sixty very lose nuts including myself according to my counts. I certainly never thought OWS would ever grow large enough to leverage any kind of concession. I stayed involved in spite of the grueling nature of the meetings mainly because I was impressed by the adventurous, committed spirit of other more experienced key organizers in the movement I figured I would learn something from in the process of inevitable failure. I joined a group of a dozen such organizers with street performance experience. We agreed to sleep out on Wall Street two weeks before our official invasion date of September 17, 2011 as a “Test Run” to get a feel for what we should expect on S17.
I arrived late at the 8:00pm meeting before the test run at 60 Wall St on Sept 2nd 2011. I had heavily been drinking cheap scotch in order to prepare myself for what I expected to be a fairly unpleasant evening of rats, cockroaches, the NYPD, possibly some handcuffs, a jail cell and maybe even a dismissal from my job with several interesting, well-meaning, well-informed/educated strangers who were determined to cause trouble. However I felt like I had returned home after I threw down my blanket, kicked off my shoes and unpacked the chessboard in front of Federal Hall after we finished the meeting at 60 Wall St.
Alex put on a giraffe hat, started singing and playing his guitar. I remember that Maria and Christina kept filming us while Sid, Vanessa and Jez talked to the spectators that started watching us, some of whom left us food and some spare cash along with plenty of encouragement. I was having a good time and I wasn’t able to focus on the chessboard I had just set up after I began showing Jez a little bit of capoeira.
I was more interested in having fun than in dealing with the NYPD and I admittedly felt more upset with my fellow occupiers for deciding to argue with the police and ruin our fun than I was with the police for arresting them, especially given how easy it turned out for Richie, Christina and I to avoid getting arrested.
I figured that the test run was a failure. There was nothing else for me to do but to go home. I got a call from Alex just as I began to fall asleep. Alex told me that the NYPD let most of them out right away except for Nico who had been forced to wait twenty four hours for not having a NY State ID before a Judge threw his case out. Alex also told me that he was going to regroup at another spot. I told him that I had to go to the day job as a business intelligence analyst I had just landed in a few hours. The game had changed by the time I woke up however. I saw lots of emails sent to the September 17th Google Groups thread the next morning of August 2nd 2011 while I was at work. Sean Captain later wrote,
“Recounting the arrests was the first item on the agenda at the next General Assembly meeting in Tompkins Square Park in the East Village. Nine had been released the next day with a summons. A tenth went before a judge, who threw the case out.
Something had finally happened. It wasn’t just meetings and emails. There had been a demonstration–albeit tiny–and arrests. For the first time, it felt like September 17th might not be a total flop. The general assemblies were still drudgery. But serious work was happening in the committees. Arts and Culture had grabbed national news.”
No one doubted that the occupation of Zuccotti Park would begin on September 17, 2011 after the test run. The next questions became, “will it last through the rainstorm on Monday morning of September 19, 2011?” “Would OWS last through the week?” “Would it last through the month?” “Would it last through the October eviction?” “Would it last through the cold?” However we continued to grab more and more national news as our specific occupation of Zuccotti Park not only grew, but more importantly, the social media content or propaganda we continually created like the test run clip inspired countless other occupations across the country and the world. Sean Captain described how “live streaming was just part of the media operation. The press team posts photos and videos every day–some showing ugly aspects like pepper-spraying and rough arrests. It’s a continuation of the Arts and Culture Committee’s arrest video.”
Our “viral” success was not a one-time, historically unprecedented fluke based exclusively upon social media. Piven and Cloward describe how small groups of two up to a half dozen highly motivated and committed civil rights activists were able to inspire mass mobilizations across segregated colleges, churches and ghetto neighborhoods.”[xii] “News of the February 1st sit-down strike of four black college students at a segregated lunch counter in Greensboro, North Carolina started a chain reaction of insurgency in 1960.”[xiii] Piven and Cloward describe how cadres of civil rights activists were “animated by the élan of the sit-ins and freedom rides, by the tactics of confrontation.”[xiv]
“Through the summer and fall of 1960 militant SNCC activities mushroomed. No one could say what precisely was happening, or who was involved, There was no organization to monitor protest activities, one participant said, “because the students were too busy protesting…no one really needed ‘organization’ because we had a movement” (Zinn, 36).”[xv]
The “chain reaction” of militant Civil Rights insurgency in 1960 described by Piven and Cloward manifested itself again in 2011 as OWS went “viral” as occupations began to form in cities all across the US and the entire World. Perhaps the most exciting, although least defining, features of social movements are the large public crowds that they can produce. Key late 19th century social scientists Gustave Le Bon and Gabriel Tarde fearfully described the invincible hypnotic, highly contagious power of crowds over individuals which I experienced first-hand with OWS.
There were too many people staying at Zuccotti Park full time for Occupiers with day jobs like myself to find space there to sleep at night. The occupation grew so large and stable that I found myself at a loss as to how to continue to contribute. It was very much like that moment in the movie Fight Club when Edward Norton’s character wandered around his home swilling vodka feeling useless with nothing to do because project mayhem took on a life of its own. Your movement WILL FAIL if you do not reach this critical stage. So I would visit Zuccotti every morning before work with three hand counters to get an average estimate how many people were sleeping there each night in order to alleviate my feelings of uselessness. The spread sheet I kept revealed the contagious growth of the Occupy crowd in Zuccotti Park which we had renamed Liberty Square at the time.
|Liberty Plaza AM headcount|
|Thurdsay||10/13/2011||439||223||331||rained the night before – lots of people under tarps not a good count|
|Friday||10/14/2011||too many to count – day of bloomberg’s attempted clean up|
|Tuesday||10/18/2011||531||399||380||437||drizzling, not freezing|
However, the large disruptive crowds that small groups of activists sometimes organize during relatively rare moments of historical, credit/debt based crises are still merely the tip of the iceberg. Sean Captain described how the OWS was larger online than in person.
A protest crowd’s audience is ideally the largest element of a social movement if everything works out. This is how we reached and will reconnect with a population of monetarily literate and curious millions with our modern disruptive grassroots street theater and social media based approach to social change. Goldberg describes how,
“The mobilization drama is played before an audience not only of organizations but of individuals, affiliated and unaffiliated. Within and outside associations, as members of family and informal work groups, in casual circles of friends, and alone, individuals make decisions about social movements. They listen to movement representatives, and choose to affiliate, oppose, or remain neutral. Authorities and contenders are acutely aware of this audience. It is this contest for public support, not only from groups but from the unaffiliated, that explains the importance that activists attach to their message and the intense struggle for control waged over a movement’s image.”[xvi]
Piven and Clowrd argue “The most useful way to think about the effectiveness of protest is to examine the disruptive effects on institutions of different forms of mass defiance, and then to examine the political reverberations of those disruptions.”[xvii] This is why effective modern movement builders pay very careful attention and attempt to manage the mainstream media interpretations of their image according to Goldberg.
“They are attuned to News schedules, competition between the press and networks and reporters’ thirst for authoritative sources. The stakes of the “media dance” are high. Television coverage may confer legitimacy on a movement and enhance its credibility by mirroring widespread popular discontent or, perhaps by creating that impression. These images will in turn, influence the reactions of authorities, polity members, and other challenging groups. Media attention can raise rank-and-file morale and facilitate resource building by carrying the movement’s case before large, un-mobilized audiences. Such a hearing is vital to movements without extensive memberships. But if the rewards are great, so too are the risks, Silence or negative coverage may sap a movement’s energy and prepare the ground for repression. Because the camera transforms activists into instant media stars, it may exacerbate internal tensions and encourage dissension. Also, news deadlines, the demand for knowledgeable informants, and the centralization of network facilities favor hierarchical and national protest groups over decentralized organizations. Regardless of the type of movement, however, efforts to manipulate the media will continue to consume much time and effort.”[xviii]
Modern grassroots organizers share photos and videos of direct actions mixed with mainstream media news sources on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube & Instagram to build audiences, day by day, week by week, until journalists themselves become audiences members, typically pitching story ideas about the movement to their editors, inevitably creating mainstream media interpretations of the movement, which in turn expand the activists’ audience regardless of how favorable the content is. Hence why organizers pay careful attention to the statistics or analytics on the reach, likes, comments and shares of the links, photos, videos of their social media channels to give their audience more of the kind of action and information they want to see and less of what they react negatively towards or ignore, which is worse. We pay even more attention to the social media analytics we see on posts of mainstream media coverage of our direct actions that we post to our social media platforms to examine the potential political reverberations of our disruptive actions.
Summary of the Lost Social Scientific Theory of Movement Building
Audience participation, or “armchair activism” as some direct action junkies derisively refer to it, is critical to the “success” of the movement in terms of it actually achieving its demands and direct action is how organizers create and expand audiences. The kind of disruptive direct action that can eventually attract and motivate large audiences of millions into action “requires only small numbers of persons, but these must be so highly motivated and involved that they are willing to risk the great hardships involved in direct action.”[xix]
“The first duty of a revolutionist,” however, “is to get away with it” according to Abbie Hoffman.[xx] My friends and I have discovered through several years’ worth of experimentation that it is possible to mitigate the predictable threats of arrest and police violence using homemade art, grassroots street theater to create propaganda or memes disrupt and inspire people’s imaginations. We disseminate our propaganda on social media, monitor the analytics and create more content based on what attracts more followers, audiences and eventually mainstream attention. We haven’t yet experienced a single arrest much less an accidental injury at any of our ongoing 420 Fight Club Demonstrations at the NYC Branch of the Federal Reserve. We intend to maintain our perfect track record as well.
Thomas S. Kuhn similarly described how revolutions in old, outdated, anomaly-ridden scientific paradigms in crisis are not accomplished without forceful, persuasive argumentation that ultimately disrupts and overshadows the logic of the old paradigm.[xxi] We therefore work to capitalize on the profound emotional significance of a slogan, of an expressive gesture, or of a work of art”[xxii] described by Karl Manheim to make monetary literacy and reform with the NEED Act appealing from the perspective of the counter cultural imagination of the radical left. Our goal is to inspire other frustrated, angry individuals who have been alienated by our educational system into teaching themselves more about monetary history, policy and into taking direct, democratic action most importantly by calling their congress representatives to demand sponsorship for the NEED Act.
What a Grassroots Social Movement is not
Piven and Cloward identify a persistent, perilous confusion between mass movements on the one hand and the formalized bureaucratic organizations, such as for our purpose; The American Monetary Institute, Greens For Monetary Reform, The Alliance For Just Money as well their competitor organizations from the Public Banking Institute (PBI) and Modern Money Theory (MMT) “which tend to emerge on the crest of the movement on the other hand,”
“The presumption of most reformers and revolutionaries who have tried to organize the lower classes, is that one the economic and political resources of at least modest numbers of people are combined in disciplined action, public or private elites will be forced to yield up the concessions necessary to sustain and enlarge mass affiliation.[xxiii]
The mass membership movement model “has not succeed in practice” according to Piven and Cloward’s historical comparative analysis of “successful” twentieth century North American social movements. The authors debunk the popular conviction that the “formal organization is a vehicle of power.”[xxiv] They describe how “the bureaucratic organizations that were developed within these movements tended to blunt the militancy that was the fundamental source of such influence as the movement’s exerted.[xxv] Anthony Giddens and his colleagues similarly observed that “increasing the size of the group tends to decrease its intensity of interaction.”[xxvi]
Another implicit assumption of these mass membership monetary reform bureaucracies, specifically the newly emerging Alliance for Just Money is that monetary education will somehow inspire successful action enabling radical redistributions of actual social wealth, which is dangerously naïve, wishful thinking given how obviously adverse average Americans are to educating themselves. Leon Festinger observed “there should be a relative absence of motivation to seek support or new information at all.”[xxvii] especially in individuals whose daily behaviors, routines and lifestyle are free from doubt, insecurity, moral confusion or “cognitive dissonance.” Such individuals are typically only exposed to new information accidentally or forcefully.[xxviii] Such individuals are also likely to set up defensive processes to prevent the cognition from becoming firmly established moreover.[xxix]
Festinger describes how most individuals will only seek out new people from whom to elicit new information only after they have been exposed to some sort of seemingly anomalous, disruptive social action that disrupts the values and beliefs upon which the mundane action of their day to day lives revolve. The basic theoretical assumption of change underlying Occupy The NEED Act therefore is that action inspires education, and not the other way around as members of our “parent” monetary reform organizations seem to implicitly assume by way of contrast in spite of our ongoing solidarity in terms of enacting the NEED Act.
Move #MMT, Get Out of Our Way
Max Weber describes a key rule for maintaining objectivity in the social sciences. “First, to keep readers and themselves, sharply aware at every moment of the standards by which they judge reality and from which the value-judgment is derived, instead of, as happens too often, deceiving themselves in the conflict of ideals by a value mélange of values of the most different orders and types, and seeking to offer something to everybody.”[xxx]
Thus I am required to confess by the rules of my own sociological methods that my biases towards MMT in favor AMI’s scholarship and the NEED Act are the largely the result of my experiences with Occupy Wall Street which of course has largely been deemed a failure due to its lack of coherent, legislative demands. I find it frustrating that MMT, a community of highly educated arguably “wealthy,” successful scholars, is not held to the same standard of coherent legislation that the mainstream media expected out of an incalculable mass of exploited, alienated, struggling, working, poor people.
I first found out about PBI and AMI through the Occupy community and I immediately gravitated towards AMI, reading more of their materials including the Lost Science of Money because AMI proposed a far more radical, sweeping solution that Occupy could have organized around as a coherent demand through an actual piece of legislation which AMI’s reformist competitors like PBI and MMT completely lack in spite of our competitors’ admittedly stronger social media presences. It would be simple for a new disruptive grassroots Occupy movement to organize around a central demand for public banks, which most #RealMonetaryReformers feel is absolutely necessary once we have broken Wall Street’s monopoly on the means of producing our nation’s money as we would rather not socialize the distribution costs of circulating privatized debt as money. There is however absolutely no way to organize an effective grassroots movement around abstract theory, especially not that of MMT.
Modern Money Theory is a far and away the most counterproductive bureaucratic organization in the mainstream monetary reform conversation from the standpoint of grassroots movement building irrespective of the damning critiques of the accuracy of their theory of how our current monetary system actual works and how it could potentially work more effectively. Modern Money Theory tells us that no government, including that of the US can’t ever go broke, that government debt equals money creation and that the US Gov could therefore easily afford to eliminate the student debt crisis and create a voluntary job guarantee.
I am of course oversimplifying MMT’s theory which does them far more justice than they deserve as good theories are simple according to Aristotle and Occam. The reason why I feel comfortable endorsing theories Zarlenga articulates in The Lost Science of Money because the book is simple and easy to understand. I feel comfortable promoting the NEED Act because I can easily imagine how it will benefit me and everyone else I know, love and indeed despise. 1) End fractional reserve lending, 2) nationalize the Fed, 3) in order to spend, rather than borrow money, to fund completely tax and debt-free housing, medical, educational and predatory debt jubilees, universal housing, universal healthcare, universal education, universal basic guaranteed income, a voluntary job guarantee, clean, renewable energy and transportation, money out of politics and much more potentially. I nag Jamie Walton to write in monetary reparations for victims of colonialism and slavery into the bill along with universal veterinary medicine, which I understand according to the late Zarlenga himself, is absolutely possible.
MMT by way of contrast relies on far too much specialized, unsystematic, inaccessible, verbose, specialized jargon for an economic layman and a completely outsider to the banking system such as myself, much less any average MMT follower to even personally attempt to critique the validity their theory – which is undoubtedly the point of their theory! MMT reminds of me of Talcott Parson’s unnecessarily complicated functionalist theories…which no one studies anyone.
The purpose of theory in the social scientific method is used to interpret and understand facts or objects of scientific inquiry moreover. Theories aren’t supposed to be treated like facts. Theories are supposed to evolve and change unlike facts. And they are never guides to practical action in Weber’s sociology.”[xxxi] However MMT’s explanation of money is presented as incontrovertibly accurate according to their founders and followers, in spite of poor criticism of its accuracy by #RealMonetaryRefomers mainstream economists alike. MMT typically accuse their critics of misunderstanding and jealousy “Why are you getting so much attention?” One of the more vocal opponents of MMT, in an apparent moment of weakness, even confessed that there is a “lot of jealousy” in the heterodox community over the success the MMTers have achieved.” [xxxii].
MMT hasn’t significantly modified, adapted or evolved its theory based upon criticism which betrays it as dogma, and as neo laissez faire capitalist dogma at that, as opposed to objective social scientific theory. Ben Hunt describes,
“Modern Monetary Theory – which is neither modern nor a theory – is a post hoc rationalization of political expediency and power-expanding action. MMT is the theoretical justification for the economic policies of Trump and his Wall Street fellow travelers alike, who want nothing more than to keep the market punchbowl in place and well-spiked with pure grain ZIRP alcohol forever and ever, amen.”
“MMT is the theoretical justification for the economic policies of every potential Democratic presidential candidate in 2020. Because with MMT, you CAN have it all. You can pay for wars without end. You can pay for universal single-payer healthcare. You can pay for everyone to go to college. You can pay for a universal basic income. I mean … why not? A caring sovereign’s gotta do what a caring sovereign’s gotta do.”
MMT is a shameless attempt to construct hegemonic discourse. MMT essentially suggests that money will somehow be more equitably distributed if only everyone thinks like they do. “Were economists and policy makers to understand that the MMT general case explains the true nature of government debt operations, we suggest that [the Fed and Treasury’s debt operations] could be markedly improved.”[xxxiii]
Yet unlike AMI, MMT has not created any legislation to enact its vague policy recommendations. MMT merely offers us and actual politicians such as Alexandria Occasio Cortez and Bernie Sanders theory, which is not at all even the goal of objective social science. Theory is rather just a tool used for making and testing further empirical observations rather than a guide to practical action in Max Weber’s approach to sociology.
Pitching MMT theory in front of the mainstream media certainly hasn’t been working for Alexandria Alexia Cortez who “hasn’t come across as a policy genius in the barrage of TV interviews she has done. She’s shown that she has no idea of how to pay for her radical program of vastly expanded entitlements or for her “Green New Deal” with its combination of statist control and radical environmentalism.” I find genuinely disturbing that Alexandria Occasio-Cortez uses MMT’s theory about how taxes do not fund government spending as some sort of incontrovertible fact to explain to the mainstream media how she’s going to fund our #GreenNewDeal.
“MMT even generalizes its position by assuming that treasury spending equals money creation and comes prior to taxation. This is to say that taxes do not fund government expenditure, for government expenditure would create the money that flows back to the treasury by way of taxes. This is remindful of medieval tally sticks where this mechanism was evident. With regard to contemporary settings, however, there is no such evidence. Today, it is primarily the banks that decide if and how much money to create, and all economic actors can trigger primary bank credit in that they go into debt with the banks – government, nonbank financial institutions, banks as bank customers, companies, and private households. There is no mechanical sequence in the money circuit.”
“Don’t let yourself be fooled. The biggest part of government expenditure is funded by taxes. Tax revenues represent transfers of already existing money. The money that serves for paying taxes is neither extinguished upon paying taxes, nor is it created or re-created when government spends its tax revenues” Professor Joseph Huber. [xxxiv]
So thanks for making @AOC run a marathon in the opposite direction of the finish line by educating her on theory rather than actual legislation much less monetary literacy MMT. This is exactly why Max Weber makes a critical distinction between social science, the objective study of facts, and social policy, which Weber describes as statements of ideals meant for guiding action.[xxxv] MMT’s “policy” recommendations, such as zero interest rates, control inflation with taxation are no better a guide for practical action than is the completely useless, potentially disastrous Ron Paul mantra, “End the Fed.” MMT moreover, has no power of enforcing Wall Street much less their own their own policy ideas. Linette Lopez explains,
“For the Wall Street I’ve covered for the past 8 years, MMT looks like a heady brew of easy money, major paydays for CEOs, and a chance to let K Street show its worth. For the last 10 years, we’ve had rates at zero and deficit spending, and, last year, the GOP granted Wall Street the tax cut it’s been wanting for a long time. These were some golden years if you played them right.”
“But, besides the fact that we’re now watching the stock-market bubble pop (which won’t happen in an MMT world because rates won’t go up), we saw some pretty unproductive behavior from corporate America and the bankers who love it.”
“[I]magine how much money Wall Street and corporate America would spend on lobbying in an MMT world. K Street would explode. The lobbyists would all be stalking the halls of Congress for their corporate masters, trying to get loopholes written into the tax legislation when the economy gets too hot and taxes have to go up.“
AMI stipulates the creation of a monetary authority in SEC 302 of the NEED Act rather than further expand our nation’s historically unprecedented debt with buffer stocks to give the economy a new sugar high. Nor do we propose more unnecessary, arguable unconstitutional taxation to control inflation. The objective of this Monetary Authority is not only to effectively ensure “the goals of maximum employment, stable prices, and moderate long-term interest rates” but also implicitly to eliminate the very possibility of Wall Street’s likely abuses of MMT’s “theory” as articulated by Ben Hunt and Linette Lopez. The monetary authority established by the NEED Act furthermore also conforms with Weber’s description of a “rational monetary authority.”
Please RSVP on Facebook for my presentation on Weber’s neglected monetary theory and critique of George Knapp’s State Theory of Money to the Sociology Department of the New School for Social Research at 7:00pm est on Wednesday April 10 of this year 2019 so I know how much weed, wine and cheese to stock up on!
MMT is not only poor, literally, practically useless theory, it is also completely inaccurate and dangerously misleading as best articulated by AMI affiliated scholar Professor Joseph Huber. “To Mosler, financial restraints in a fiat money system are ‘imaginary.’ Wray contends that ‘for a sovereign nation, ‘affordability’ is not an issue; it spends by crediting bank accounts with its own IOUs, something it can never run out of. This is not totally unfounded, but overshooting the mark by far.”[xxxvi]
“MMT describes the situation as if government were creating itself the money it spends on policies aimed at propping up employment and economic growth.”[xxxvii] Professor Huber points out that the Federal Reserve only holds a small portion of the US government’s debt in spite of MMT’s assertion that the Fed absorbs all treasury debt. “Lumping government and central bank together in one and the same category of financial institutions creates confusion rather than simplicity. This applies all the more since central banks today act much more often as bank of the banks rather than bank of the state.”[xxxviii]
”MMT’s re-interpretation of the issue of government IOUs as an issue of sovereign money, thus depicting government as a creditor rather than a debtor, is misguided. The real situation is quite obvious and does not need further interpretation: the government enters into debt with banks and nonbanks. The principal has to be redeemed, but is actually revolved, accumulating truly majestic mountains of debt. The entire debt mass is interest-bearing to banks and nonbanks, absorbing in most cases something between a sixth and a third of tax revenues depending on the country and level of government expenditure, in extreme cases more than 50 per cent”[xxxix]
Warren Mosler’s description of the NEED Act as an “innocent fraud” would therefore perhaps be a better description of MMT itself were it not for the truly troubling way in which MMT’s style of scholarship conforms to a far more suspicious, historical pattern of pseudo-scientific, scholastic style propaganda, observable to careful readers of The Lost Science of Money which depicts debt as somehow good, and government-issued sovereign money as evil.
Zarlenga describes a censored history of sovereign governments effectively creating and distributing their nation’s money without paying any interest to bankers to maintain their monetary systems for the common good of their citizens. Zarlenga explains the rise of dominant civilizations such as Ancient Sparta, Rome and the U.S. due to money issued debt-free by sovereign governments. He also describes the fall of Western civilizations due to banks usurping the power from government to create money for private profit. This is accomplished in part due to direct censorship of the lost history of sovereign money. “For example, in the Athenian Constitution that comes down to us, we can find how the garbage was collected, but search in vain to learn how the Athens state coinage system operated.”[xl]
One of the central “theories” or themes of the Lost Science of Money is that the banks have used systematic lies disguised as cutting edge academic economic “theory” or propaganda to confuse and mislead the public into believing that debt is inevitable, unavoidable and somehow beneficial to society. Zarlenga bases his theory in part on Professor Carroll Quigley who wrote:
“The influence of financial capitalism and of the international bankers who created it was exercised both on business and on governments, but could have done neither if it had not been able to persuade both these to accept two “axioms” of its own ideology. Both of these were based on the assumption that politicians were too weak and too subject to temporary popular pressures to be trusted with control of the money system; accordingly, the sanctity of all values and the soundness of money must be protected in two ways: by basing the value of money on gold and by allowing bankers to control the supply of money. To do this it was necessary to conceal, or even to mislead, both governments and people about the nature of money and its methods of operation”[xli]
Zarlenga furthermore acknowledges that “in America today, the idea that government should control the issuance of money is guaranteed to arouse ridicule among most economists. The government’s monetary role is under attack by diverse elements from the paid apologists for privately controlled central banks, to free banking advocates to gold standard enthusiasts.”[xlii] Zarlenga further “theorizes” that universities deliberately promote pseudo-scientific theories which completely ignore or justify debt and usury because universities are funded by banks.
“Understand also that many of the economics chairs at universities are endowed by financial institutions – banks and related bodies. These groups have a direct influence over who does and doesn’t get promoted to those chairs of influence and therefore over which monetary ideas the next generation of economists and teachers are indoctrinated with.”[xliii]
“It’s possible for the financiers to look over the current crop of professors and single out those with plausible theories beneficial to their activities. Elements of the financial establishment could see to it that those ideas were promoted and refutations of them were ignored, possibly without the professors (such as potentially Kelton, Wray, Fullwiler, etc) ever being certain of why their works were well received”[xliv] (parentheses added).
Zarlenga corroborates his theory by describing how the Fugger banking cartel financed John Eck, a student of Conrad Summenhart who both wrote propaganda justifying usury in 1515 specifically to errode the Catholic Church’s ban. These author’s preceded John Calvin’s justifications for usury The Institutes of the Christian Religion in 1536.[xlv]
Zarlenga describes how the Calvinist Clergyman John Witherspoon, in 1786 anonymously published Essays on Money in order to “theoretically attack the idea of government paper money,” specifically in order to discredit the idea of debt-free currency before the Constitutional Convention of 1787. “State bills are an absurd form of money and not money at all.”[xlvi] Zarlenga thoroughly describes British,[xlvii] French,[xlviii] and more Protestant church and university propaganda,[xlix] falsely discrediting the U.S. Greenbacks which Lincoln issued debt-free in order to finance the U.S. Civil War to preserve the union.
Regarding the Great Depression, Zarlenga quotes Friedman and Schwartz, “One can read through the academic journals and find only an occasional sign the academic world even knew about the unprecedented banking collapse in progress, let alone understood the cause and the remedy.”[l] Zarlenga describes how Keynes deliberately warned President Roosevelt not to create money to pay for the New Deal, but to borrow it instead, arguing that there was already enough money in circulation.”[li] “English economists such as Keynes, had a small excuse for their ignorance of the possibility of using Greenbacks – their nation had virtually no tradition of governmentally created money since the late 1600s.”[lii] Zarlenga also described how Alan Greenspan “used the Conservative’s basic ploy – blaming the evils of the private Federal Reserve System on the government,” to shift blame from the financiers to the government for prolonging the depression.”[liii]
I don’t know anyone who sees any validity in MMT’s definition of all money as debt[liv] having read Zarlenga’s lost history of debt-free money before coming across MMT. I don’t know anyone who sees any validity in MMT’s outright denial or worse still their benevolent depictions of fractional reserve lending having first studied the Lost Science of Money.
“MMTers today express no less admiration for what they see as a smoothly run and benign system, apparently unimpressed by the long list of dysfunctions of fractional reserve banking that has been drawn by so many scholars over the last two centuries. The long list of deficiencies includes unstable banks and finances; lack of money safety; inflation and asset inflation; distortion of income distribution to the benefit of financial income at the expense of earned income; and overshooting, or even initial triggering, of economic and financial boom-and-bust cycles, thus proneness to crisis.”[lv]
I can count the number of people I know on one hand who have the patience and the fortitude to even wade through and read MMT literature for the purposes of critiquing having read the Lost Science of Money First. Kudos to you if you’ve made it this far through my critique of MMT. The fact that MMT and their followers have failed to critique and account for Zarlenga’s lost history of facts about debt-free money in spite of MMT’s bold and utterly suspicious condemnation of the NEED Act gives MMT absolutely no credence in the dedicated community that has organized itself around Zarlenga’s book and bill.
Occupy the Lost Science of Money
Zarlenga doesn’t create a new theory of money. His presentation of Aristotle’s ancient “theory” that money is created by human law rather than nature is far more illuminating and useful than MMT’s deliberately misleading “modern” intellectual masturbation could ever be. Zarlenga presents lost, censored facts about money that support and clarify his chartalist theory far less speculatively than MMT.
Zarlenga certainly never seemed to assume that the economy would fix itself if only enough people bought his book memorized all the lost facts of money he wrote about and acted accordingly. Stephen Zarlenga was thrilled by Occupy Wall Street furthermore. He, Dennis Kucinich and countless other revolutionary grassroots monetary reformers such as Nick Egnatz made public overtures to us to make the NEED Act the number one legislative demand of Occupy Wall Street.
I beat myself up a little bit every day for not having the wherewithal to learn more about the NEED Act the first time I saw a flyer for the bill which Donald from AMI had circulated through Zuccotti park. I can only imagine where the world might be today had I deviated from our deliberate lack of demands and endorsed the NEED Act as an Occupy organizer all those times I was on MSNBC, Fox and RT America from 2011 until 2013.
But, like Frances Fox Piven said “I don’t think that social protest works as a little explosion and gets bigger and bigger and bigger and bigger. It doesn’t happen that way. It’s much more interrupted, dispersed, there are periods of discouragement — 1959-1960 the civil rights movement people thought it was over, after 1962 in Albany, Georgia — this movement [Occupy] is going to be like that too.”
And we certainly had many, many ups and downs as a movement to learn from since we began in 2011. But we’ve learned a lot from our mistakes and our success. The obvious vision and goal of Occupy The NEED Act is to inspire and organize new sufficiently disruptive occupations at every branch of the Federal Reserve Banking system in order to shut down the economy, buttressed by millions of constant phone calls to congress demanding the passage of the NEED Act into law.
We use our street theater to urge our audience to call their congress representatives and demand their sponsorship for HR 2990 of the 112th Congress because the disruptive power of a barrage of phone calls cannot be understated. “a large volume of calls on an issue could bring an office to a halt… “It brings a legislative issue right to the top of the mind of a member,” “It makes it impossible to ignore for the whole staff. You don’t get a whole lot else done” according to the New York Times. I learned that calling your elected officials and telling them what to do is more important than voting for them from Distinguished Political Science Professor Kathleen Dolan at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee. Michael Barbaro and Kate Taylor of the New York Times described how a deluge of phone calls from #OWS supporters indeed prevented a cleanup and eviction of Zuccotti Park on October 14, 2011.
We are obviously still in a prolonged “test-run” phase that has yet to go viral. However, outreach and direct action can be so much fun when its done right, that the work becomes its own reward irrespective of how close or far off the finish line to getting our greenbacks with the NEED Act may feel. The goal honestly feels much closer to me than it did when I first began working on this project over four years ago, even if only because I no longer have an unfinished dissertation about the Lost Science of Movement Building dragging me down anymore. Here are some tried and true tactics that my many Occupy The NEED Act comrades and I have collectively discovered after several years’ worth of social experimentation at the NYC Fed that will help YOU begin to organize YOUR very own occupation at your local Federal Reserve Branch for the NEED Act!
Practical Suggestions for “Monetary Reformers”
Enough with the Conferences Already!
AMI and Alliance conferences along with travel expenses cost too much money for most Occupiers to attend. If you absolutely must organize a conference please at least livestream everything and archive it on YouTube like MMT does especially if you cannot afford to make the conference completely free and offer free food like MMT does.
Think more like a lobbyist or a drug rep and organize shorter teach-ins at specific departments to get specific Professors and students interested in the Lost Science of Money and the NEED Act. Mark Young from the Alliance for Just Money is going to talk about updates and revisions that the Alliance is working on and we’ve asked Sue Peters from the Greens For Monetary Reform coalition to overview her monetary history lecture series after I present Max Weber’s monetary theory and history to the Sociology Department at the New School on Wednesday night April 10, 2019.
Occupy Your Local City Governments
Visiting our local Brooklyn Community Board meetings paid off big with lots of local press that went national for 420 Fight Club which gave us recognition which in turn enabled us to get more phone calls to Governor Cuomo from our street canvassing. A senior colleague at the Drup Policy Alliance who asked to remain anonymous told us that our calls, one group mic-checked call in particular, scared our reluctant NY Governor. Cuomo eventually passed the medical cannabis” Compassionate Care Act due to constant calls, lobbying and pressure from countless activists and patients such as ourselves.
So I just made my first visit to my local Brooklyn Community Board 4 meeting in Bushwick to ask them to talk to our district Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez into re-sponsoring the NEED Act to fund a faster, completely debt and tax-free #GreenNewDeal. It went well, they want to learn more! I hope to soon have follow up news to post on this blog. Send us a clip of yourself Occupying your local government for the NEED Act and we’ll post it in our Propaganda Gallery along with others from across the country!
Begin Organizing “Test-Runs” to Gradually Occupy Your Local Federal Reserve Branch
The legendary hypnotherapist Milton Erickson used the metaphor of “walking the patient across the ice” to explain how to change and improve people’s behaviors. Erickson was working with an old man who would get tense and inevitably slip with anticipation of failure upon crossing frozen ice. Erickson had the old man close his eyes and he began to walk the old man back and forth across ice without the old man knowing where he was until his feet and body intuitively got a feel for the ice. Then Erickson had the old man open his eyes after he had walked him into the middle of the ice patch, allowing the old man to safely walk himself across the treacherous ice.
Organizing a direct action also involves taking lots of blind baby steps across slippery territory, but remember you are never actually alone. Like Master Ericson, “my voice” and those of countless other organizers who inspired me, will get stuck in your head if you’ve gotten this far through this article.” Social media is the other reason why you aren’t ever literally alone no matter how small your first demonstrations may turnout. Small demonstrations are far safer and therefore far more fun, relaxing and enjoyable in my opinion than the large, unavoidably dangerous, uncontrollable mass actions which we’re working to inspire but which we’d honestly rather not have to organize altogether, and which we hope to clean up as quickly as possible once we ALL get our goddam money!
Focus on keeping your regular ongoing weekly or monthly action at your local Fed creative and interesting rather than large and it will overwhelm you so fast your head will spin off. The easiest way to launch your new weekly or monthly direct action campaign is to create an event link on Facebook and ask any supportive friends you may have to RSVP even if they know they can’t make it, just to attract others who are interested. Your friends will likely grow more interested in actually attending your action even if they are hesitant or unable to make it as they see new people RSVP to the event.
Another tried and true way to walk your hesitant friends across the ice to the action is to invite them to a bar near your local Federal Reserve at least one full week before the actual date of your action. Start getting them drunk, tell them about how the NEED Act will end their debt and wage slavery, and then have them Facebook live record you drunk dialing your local congress rep, demanding that the “sponsor HR 2990 of the 112th Congress.” Then ask your friends if they’ll drunk dial their Congress Rep too. This method worked out really well for us at our latest December 23rd celebration at the NYC Fed to mark the 105th anniversary of the Federal Reserve Act of 1913.
After that, simply lead your intoxicated friends from the bar to the nearby Fed Branch with signs for the NEED Act you’ve prepared for your first group photo at your nearby Fed. Bring Guy Fawkes masks for any of your friends who may need to preserve their Anonymity and then watch them carefully as “the mask reveals the wearer’s true personality” according to Goffman.
Post your money shot, your group photo in front of your local Fed to the profile pic of your Facebook event link to promote your actual action. Share all the b-real photos, any videos to your Facebook event link to attract more RSVPs to your next FB event page in order to get more people at your next action where your next primary goal will be to get a new group shot with more people in it than your last one. Wash, rinse and repeat week by week if you can or just month by month until you lose control over the crowd.
You can begin tweeting your photos and FB links to local journalists who might be interested in covering your action. Visit your local city government meetings and other mass actions in your area with your signs and flyers for the NEED Act to find press to invite to your ongoing actions at your local Fed. Send some great content to us and we’ll post it on our very own Occupy The NEED Act Propaganda Gallery Page. We’d also love to hit the road and come help YOU organize a text run if you live near the Boston, Washington DC or Philly Fed Branches.
Drunk Dial For Democracy From Home
Start a movement from your own home if you live too far away to organize test-runs at a nearby Federal Reserve Branch. This works out really well for Occupy The NEED Act founder William George who often invites friends over and gets them drunk in exchange for calling Oklahoma Congressman Tom Cole while I get my friends high and teach them martial arts in front of the NYC Fed on Facebook Live.
Solo canvassing is highly effective when you utilize the tried and true “People’s Sign Committee” trick from Occupy Wall Street. Simply leave several signs on the ground and people will stop and automatically look at them without you having to persuade them to stop, talk to you, take a flyer and share their contact info with you.
People who stop are usually very grateful to hear about the NEED Act for the first time. Don’t try to tell them everything about the bill. Just tell them that it will pay for pretty much whatever is important it them by nationalizing the Fed and spending, rather than borrowing money into existence to pay for the basic needs of our society. After that the trick is to stay in contact with the new people you meet. Getting an email and a new follower on Twitter is best. Ask them to RSVP to your next action on Facebook. They’ll be interested in meeting other people interested in the NEED Act.
Try to get them engaged on the spot. Many people will look up their congress rep on their smartphone and call their rep if you ask them to. I’ve also found that people love taking photos with the signs, which you can also offer to tweet to their congress rep for them.
Become a Badass Armchair Activist
The easiest and most important way you can help us Occupy The NEED Act is to call your local congress representative and tell the to “sponsor HR 2990 of the 112th Congress to fund a completely tax-free #GreenNewDeal,” or something along those lines. Upload a digital recording of yourself to YouTube, Tweet the link to your call directly to your congress rep and you can even tweet the link to us at @TheNEEDAct and we’ll post your clip along with those of your fellow sovereign currency comrades on the Propaganda Gallery page of this blog.
Please follow and tweet to us at @TheNEEDAct for more information.
Please donate to support my research and activism if you are able to do so.
[i] Elizabeth Gurley Flynn January 28, 1917. From Goldberg, Robert A. Grassroots Resistance, Social Movements in Twentieth Century America. Belmont, California: Wadsworth.
[ii] Goffman, Erving. 1961. Asylums. New York: Anchor Books. Pp. 197-198.
[iii] Goffman, 1961. Pp. 58, 300.
[iv] Goffman, 1961. P. 196.
[v] Goffman, 1961. P. 200.
[vi] Goldberg, Robert A. 1991. Grassroots Resistance, Social Movements in Twentieth Century America. Belmont, California: Wadsworth. P. 2.
[vii] Piven, Francis Fox, Richard A. Cloward. , 1979. Poor People’s Movements: Why they Succeed and How they Fail New York: Vintage Books. P. 5.
[viii] Piven and Cloward. 1977, xxiii
[ix] Piven and Cloward. 1977. P. 37
[x] Piven and Cloward. 1977. P. P. 29.
[xi] Piven and Cloward. 1977. P. 145.
[xii] Piven and Cloward. 1977. Pp. 223-224.
[xiii] Goldberg. 1991. P. 147.
[xiv] Piven and Cloward. 1977. P. 234.
[xv] Piven and Clowrard. 1977. 222.
[xvi] Goldberg. 1991. Pp. 11-12.
[xvii] Piven and Cloward. 1977. 24
[xviii] Goldberg. 1991. P. 226.
[xix] Piven and Cloward. 1977. Pp. 223.
[xx] Hoffman, Abbie. Revolution for the Hell of It. . 2005, Avalon. NY. P. 116.
[xxi] Kuhn, Thomas S., 1970. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Second Edition, Enlarged. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Pp. 93-94.
[xxii] Karl Mannheim , 1993. “On the Problem of Generations.” From Karl Mannheim: Second Expanded Edition, Kurt H. Wolff, Editor, Transaction Publishers, New Brunswick. P. 380
[xxiii] Piven, and Cloward. 1977. P. xxi.
[xxiv] Piven and Cloward. 1977. P. xx.
[xxv] Piven and Cloward. 1977. xv-xvi.
[xxvi] Anthony Giddens, Mitchell Dunier, Richard P. Appelbaum, and Deborah Carr. 2008. Essentials of Sociology. Norton. New York. P. 123
[xxvii] Leon Festinger. 1957. A Theory of Cognitive Dissonance. Stanford: University Press. P. 30.
[xxviii] Festinger. 1957. P. 133.
[xxix] Festinger. 1957. P. 137.
[xxx] Max Weber.  “Objectivity in Social Science and Social Policy.” from The Methodology of the Social Sciences. Translated by Edward A. Shills and Henry A. Finch. The Free Press. New York. 1949. P. 59.
[xxxi] Max Weber. 1904. P. 52
[xxxii] Scott Fullwiler, Stephanie Kelton & L. Randall Wray. 2012. “Modern Money Theory: A Response To Critics.” Political Economy Research Institute. University of Massachusetts Amherst. P. 24.
[xxxiii] Fullwiler, Kelton, Wray. 2012. P. 26 http://www.peri.umass.edu/fileadmin/pdf/working_papers/working_papers_251-300/WP279.pdf
[xxxiv] Joseph Huber. 2014. “Modern Money Theory and New Currency Theory A comparative discussion, including an assessment of their relevance to monetary reform.” real-world economics review, issue no. 66 P. 47.
[xxxv] Max Weber. 1904. 60.
[xxxvi] Huber. 2014. P. 54
[xxxvii] Huber. 2014. P. 44.
[xxxviii] Huber. 2014. P. 48.
[xxxix] Huber. 2014. Pp. 47-48.
[xl] Stephen Zarlenga. 2002. The Lost Science of Money. Valatie, NY: The American Monetary Institute. P. 5.
[xli] Zarlenga. 2002. 520.
[xlii] Zarlenga. 2002. P. 433.
[xliii] Zarlenga. 2002. P. 359
[xliv] Zarlenga. 2002. P. 358.
[xlv] Zarlenga. 2002. 138.
[xlvi] Zarlenga. 2002. P. 397.
[xlvii] Zarlenga. 2002. 491.
[xlviii] Zarlenga. 2002. 447.
[xlix] Zarlenga. 2002. P. 471.
[l] Zarlenga. 2002. P. 550.
[li] Zarlenga. 2002. P. 554.
[lii] Zarlenga. 2002. P. 559.
[liii] Zarlenga. 2002. P. 567.
[lv] Huber. 2014. Pp. 43-44.