Interview: Community currency engineer Matthew Slater
Slater has been working all around the world these past few years, trying to develop software for mutual credit economies and eventually uniting all such economies.
Instantly, you can tell Matthew Slater is an intelligent and principled guy.
Slater has been working all around the world these past few years, trying to develop software for mutual credit economies with the aim of eventually uniting all such economies.
Mutual credit economies, at the absolute ELI5 level, function like a system of IOUs. Everyone has enough money/ credit from the start to live off, and loans are interest-free and dealt with by the participating parties. These economies struggle when scaled beyond a certain number of people because of the ease of exploiting negative balances (think Lloyd Christmas’ suitcase full of IOUs in “Dumb & Dumber”).
Slater is also the co-founder of Community Forge, which uses technology to create currency systems and tools for individual communities.
Those concepts are hard to understand for many of us, so we asked Slater himself about his work.
CointTelegraph: You told us that “most Bitcoiners only half understand money”. Could you elaborate on that?
Matthew Slater: There are two ways to think about 'money': as a commodity and as credit. Bitcoiners only recognise the former, and even vilify the latter. One aim of Bitcoin is to eradicate trust. I don't want to live in a world where trust is replaced by algorithms; I'd rather do business with local people in the context of relationships than in an anonymous, globalised marketplace. [Editor’s note: Slater will expand on this idea in an upcoming post here.]
CT: You’ve already mentioned Auroracoin and similar projects that start out by giving people in a certain community a certain number of coins from the start. What have your observations been, especially since Aurorcoin’s recent airdrop?
MS: Unlike many new currencies which espouse transition values and fail to get traction, Auroracoin at least has a different intention and a clearly defined user base who have experienced a full banking crash (I mean without bailouts). Watching the price go gradually up since the airdop is a sign of optimistic about the potential of the project. However we mustn't forget that though Auroracoin is issued only to Icelanders, anyone is free to use or abuse it. If the people who actually create value are to retain control of that value, they need to find a way to protect themselves not only from banks but from all currency manipulators.
CT: As a community currency engineer, are there some projects in that area you’re particularly excited about?
MS: I'm excited about Bitcoin because the technology will revolutionise the banking system and shift the balance of power. I am putting a lot of effort into connecting up all the [local exchange trading systems] and timebanks into a decentralised credit network, but that needs software developers other than myself, and many people in those groups don't see the potential of connecting up.
I'm super excited about ecovillages, too. They are not addressing the money system at all, but building their own society. Many people working on money can't see the wood for the trees. Money is an expression of power relationships, and most of us know only servitude. Money isn't real, and we can't just change it like changing a battery or upgrading software and expect things to change. But illustrating how money works, by talking and experimenting, really helps people to wake up.
CT: With ideas such as CES, you are talking about radically different approaches to an economy. What kind of resistance do you encounter when you talk to others about facilitating trade without using national currencies? How do you get people to think outside the paradigms of the economies in which they grew up?
MS: I haven't done a lot of talking yet, because I've been writing software. Many people don't believe it is efficient or practical to trade outside legal tender. They are absolutely right, of course; money is a shared belief, and the legal tender monies are extremely efficient in some respects, delivering a wide range of Eastern goods to Westerners at really low prices. Things cost more money in smaller, less efficient marketplaces — that's a fact of life — and its extremely difficult when all the consumers care only about price. But we have to realise the hidden costs of global trade. Those low prices conceal slavery, pollution, shipping, empowering of psychopaths, and perhaps worst of all massive risk of currency war and the threat of imminent collapse hanging over us all the time.
CT: There are people, particularly in the Bitcoin community, who advocate for it to become a global currency. What would be your argument (presumably) against that?
MS: I think a global currency would be an extremely useful tool for global trade and could benefit everyone, and that Bitcoin has the technical ability to be such a tool, as gold has been until now. Note that the quantity of both Bitcoin and gold is somewhat ungovernable, which somewhat prevents their abuse by global powers.
However, that comes with several warnings.
First of all, a global currency should be used to trade global goods, i.e. ones that cannot be manufactured locally. More important than that is to rebuild our local economies, especially food.
We must also beware the monetisation of everything, a seemingly inexorable process related to the dogma of economic growth. We should be taking things out of the monetary realm and relating to each other with respect, love and tolerance rather than just making payments and micropayments to each other.
And finally, we must not cooperate with the elites who are shaping the world into one big pyramid with them at the top with their paws on the dashboard. They will use the social and political chaos they are causing to consolidate their power while preaching greater efficiency, more accountability, and less risk. They are moving us towards a global fiat currency such as the SDR, which would be under the control of an appointed global authority. They seek total control to finance, spy on or shut out anyone or everyone. That's the not the kind of world peace I'm working for.