Professor Jem Bendell

Notes from a strategist & educator on social & organisational change, now focused on #DeepAdaptation

Archive for December, 2011

Escaping Universal Usury

Posted by jembendell on December 24, 2011

As we take some time to contemplate the year, the most important things in life, and lessons from religious teachings, we could well reflect on what we’ve been told about the charging of interest. A super little article from my friend Wayne Visser, summarises the warnings against charging interest from the great religions: Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism. Those warnings are so striking now, as sovereign debt crises shake our hopes of a joyful year ahead. As usury is so routinely regarded as a problem by the great teachers of the ages, why have we let contemporary money be created as debt with interest, by private banks? Today, over 97% of our money is created that way. This doesnt mean usury by a lender using existing money they earned, but usury on the very birth of money. Commercial bank money is born as debt with interest, and this is its original sin, because the perpetual indebtedness it creates means ecological destruction and social inequality. It means that we have to pay the usurers for our ability to trade anything amongst ourselves. It creates a state of universal usury.

The world’s religions have relaxed their prohibitions on usury, apart from Islam, although even then, other tricks are used to achieve the same effect of making money from money without sharing effort or risk. There are some good arguments for allowing, while limiting, the charging of interest on loans. But charging interest on the very creation of money, the very unit of value, the very mechanism of exchange? Thats a disaster. And it crept up on us, with religious leaders and followers mostly silent on the situation.

The solutions are many, and we can start working on them now, as I described in my TEDx talk.

But the first step is to open our minds to this critique, to decide to explore it, rather than hide behind a comforting and mistaken assumption that “its too complicated” or “it just sounds too radical” or “this is something for monetary experts”. That takes courage. Yet without courage, what does any spiritual message, belief, or experience really mean?

So if you want a change from the usual TV, check out some of the videos, check out some of the links on my money resources page.

Merry Christmas!

Posted in Spirit? | 2 Comments »

Economic governance is key to any useful outcome from Rio2012

Posted by jembendell on December 2, 2011

Readers of my blog will note that at the beginning of the year I reflected on the coming Rio2012 Earth Summit, and what it could be useful for. Since then the preparatory committees have got somewhat lost in definitional issues about what the “green economy” really is… oh, the farce of humanity’s efforts to do something together for our common future.

Dark grumblings aside, during the year Ive been doing some work on the economic governance needs for more sustainable development. Some of the results of that are out, with the UNCTAD World Investment Report discussing public policies for scaling CSR (I helped with the research that went in to it), and a new journal article just out where we go into some depth on a new paradigm of collaborative economic governance for sustainable development.

The UN Non Governmental Liaison Service published my opinion piece about the need to focus on economic governance, in their “Road to Rio 2012” publication. But it was in a publication from Singapore, for the region’s enthusiasts in social enterprise, corporate responsibility and voluntary sector, where I let summed up some basic points…

“If Rio 1992 was about governments calling non-state actors to act, Rio 2012 may be about non-state actors calling on governments to join them in creating greater change.”

“…the continued lack of major global progress towards sustainable development, towards true integration of environmental and developmental priorities, should make us question [the] lack of attention to economic systems and
government roles.”

“Twenty years after Rio, with the old debates and fears of the Cold War well gone, we should be able to show more maturity in exploring how systemic flaws in our economic systems could be changed to improve social or environmental outcomes.”

“…it will take effort and courage, rather than mere intellect, to articulate and implement a global policy agenda that tackles some of the economic causes of social and environmental problems.”

The pdf of “Towards Rio 2012 And Collaborative Governance For Sustainable Development” is available from Singapore Management University at

Posted in Academia and Research, Corporations, Sustainable Development, United Nations | 2 Comments »