TURMEL: WTO L.E.T.S. Report #1

1 view
Skip to first unread message

John Turmel

Nov 29, 1999, 3:00:00 AM11/29/99

JCT: I'm John Turmel, a L.E.T.S. community currency banking
systems engineer. The last major anti-poverty demonstration of the
millennium is taking place at the World Trade Organization (WTO)
meeting in Seattle. I decided to get myself a 30-day Rail Pass so I
could stop anywhere or go anywhere I wanted in Canada and the U.S.
before and after the WTO meeting.

I took the train down to Toronto on Tuesday Nov. 16th for a World
Trade Organization meeting:

>>The Canadian Studies Programme, University College, University of
Toronto, George Ignatieff Theatre, presents a debate on the question:
"Does the World Trade Organization serve Canada's interest?"
Sylvia Ostry: Distinguished Research Fellow, Centre for
International Studies, University of Toronto
Stephen Clarkson: Professor of Political Economy, UoT; currently
a Woodrow Wilson International Fellow and a Killam Research Fellow)
Christine Elwell: Senior Policy Advisor, Sierra Club of Canada;
Adjunct Professor of Law, Queen's University
John Kirton: Professor of Political Science, Centre for
International Studies, UoT; Director of the G-8 Research Group)<<

JCT: About 150 people were in attendance. As usual for these
kinds of meetings, it was the anti-poverty chic elite condemning how
WTO policies were hurting people while Kirton argued that it wasn't
that bad. No one proposed any kind of solution
At question period, I asked if anyone had heard of L.E.T.S. and a
large number of ands went up. Then I asked if the panelists were in
favor of a world wide L.E.T.S. Kirton answered that he wasn't and the
moderator moved on. I asked what the others had to say but was
shushed for not allowing them to get on to the important discussion of
the problems. As usual, discussion of the solution is not on their
agenda. The others did not volunteer any opinions so I'd have to infer
that they too wouldn't be interested in interest-free loans for the
I passed out a dozen praybill poems but I can say that there was
little interest in doing anything about poverty.
I spent a couple of evenings with Rev. Lindsay King who was one
of the founders of the first L.E.T.S. in Toronto. He's also a great
supporter of the Toronto Dollar system, especially since we made a
presentation together to Mel Lastman, mayor of North York five years
ago and now Mel Lastman, as mayor of Toronto, was on hand for the
opening of the Toronto Dollar last December. Nice to think our early
efforts may have paid off.
Then it was off on Via Rail on Thursday at 11a.m. The trip to
Vancouver took 3 days and nights. There was plenty of room so I had a
four seater all to myself. There was a power plug back in the baggage
area so I could do work on my laptop and recharge my computer when
necessary. There was a dining car serving three meals a day and a
smoking club car with an upper observation deck that served drinks and
snacks at any time. One interesting rule, though I don't drink
alcohol, anyone who did could not imbibe in the club car but had to
return to their seat in coach! One would think they'd want to keep
possible drunks in one place. The trip was uneventful.

In Vancouver, I settled into a hotel and contacted Brian Lutes
of the Vancouver L.E.T.S. He came downtown to meet me and we had lunch
and discussion for a few hours. He offered to put me up for a few
nights which was great because I found out that a British monetary
reform writer, Mike Rowbotham, who had written the book "The Grip of
Death" (mort-gage) and had asked me to read it prior to publication,
was going starting a cross-Canada speaking tour. I did a report on his
book at my web page at http://www.cyberclass.net/turmel/rowtexts.htm
Brian is an electrical engineer which allowed me to prepare my
technical presentation in case I get to make it to Bill Gates. He also
runs the Vancouver L.E.T.S. web site and taped my poem to Gates so I
could post it at my web site. So now, you can hear my poem with all
the right inflections while you read it.
Brian mentioned that the population of the area would double in
20 years but with no plans for more roads, bridges, infrastructure. As
I was riding along on the Sky Train, 4 subway cars every 5 minutes, I
wondered why not 6 cars every 2 minutes? Again and again, I come to
the conclusion that the only way to maximize public transport while
minimizing private transport is to make public transport free. This
can only be done by a government L.E.T.S.

Great Canadian Casino:
While looking in the Vancouver telephone book for poker casinos,
I found that they have a chain of four "Great Canadian Casinos" with
Poker. Given I'm in the Great Canadian Character Anthology as a
gambler and I ran Canadian Open Holdem Poker championship for many
years, I wondered at the possibility of the Great Canadian Gambler
hosting the Great Canadian Poker championship at the Great Canadian
Casinos but, unfortunately, the government doesn't allow them to host
tournaments. Too bad. Perhaps things will change.
I visited the casinos on my way to the Rowbotham lecture. It was
a nice mid-sized operation in the lower floor of the Holiday Inn. It
seemed so much like my Casino Turmel Topaz. A small snack bar and
eating area, cage and 38 tables, as big as my Ottawa Topaz casino's 27
tables and Toronto casino's 11 tables combined. There were 5 poker
tables with 3 games going and a huge list for the $10/$20 poker game
so I didn't get to play. Maybe next time.

Rowbotham lecture:
I went on to the Michael Rowbotham lecture at the Empire Landmark
Hotel. It was sponsored by the Canadian Action Party, a new Social
Credit-inspired party headed by Paul Hellyer, COMER, the Committee On
Monetary & Economic Reform, of which I was a member in the early 1980s
but which I left when I realized that it was comprised of economists
who could not fathom an interest-free system, and the Defence of
Canadian Liberty Committee which is worried about Canada's
I really thought it was kismet that would have me travel 6000km
to run into Mike who'd traveled 12,000km for his Canadian speaking
tour. I hoped to get him to urge his audiences to push Bill Gates to
get us an interest-free system.
Unfortunately, none of the errors in his book which I had noted
in my book report had been changed which quite suited the groups who
had organized the meeting and believe in those same errors.
Over and over, the problem is blamed on the fact that the money
is based on debt with no mention of the interest on that debt.
L.E.T.S. currency is based on debt or commitment and has not shown any
problems so once and for all, I'll explain again why there's nothing
wrong with basing money on debt rather than whatever else they think
it should be based on.
As I pointed out to Mike at the end of the evening, if everyone
in the Sears store's credit database owed $500 and were provided with
a mechanism by which I could pay Mike $100 by going to -$600 while he
went to -$400, and in that way, anyone could do trades by transferring
their debts back and forth, then it wouldn't matter whether everyone's
balance was positive or negative. The system would be stable even if
we were swapping currency based on debt. So there's nothing wrong with
a debt money system. As always, whether it's a debt or credit money
system is irrelevant, it's the interest that would screw up either.
In his speech, he mentioned that the problem was a "debt-run
economy." He said that a "debt-funded economy tilts the balance." I
show above that it doesn't. "Running the economy on debt causes
problems." I know it doesn't. "When the economy is based on debt,
prices are high and goods can sell." Prices are too high and can't
sell when interest is charged and has nothing to do with debt.
He suggests a neutral medium, not issued by the banks. I don't
care who supplies it as long as it's done interest-free. If a private
L.E.T.S. group can create and provide good currency, so can a bank.
Finally, he somehow linked the creation of new money not to the
issuance of the loan but to the deposit of the new loan in another
He's another in favor of canceling the debt for the poor. He says
we should cancel their debts but let the banks keep it on their books
even though it's really gone to prevent the crash of the banks!
Still, in the question period, I thanked him for the nice words
about L.E.T.S. in his book and asked if he would favor a world-wide
L.E.T.S. interest-free banking system by Internet to destroy the usury
banking system. He said no! He didn't think something local like
L.E.T.S. could work. I felt like leaving but stayed to pass out some
poems and meet people who agreed with me that the interest, not the
debt, was the problem.
Later, another fellow pointed out that the "L" in L.E.T.S. meant
"Local" but I pointed out to his friend that to Captain Kirk and Mr.
Spock, all of Earth was "local" and that there was no limit on the
size of the database that the L.E.T.S. software could handle.
What's interesting is that in the acknowledgments of his book, he
mentions Ken Palmerton, Kevin Donnelly, Peter Challen, Brian Leslie
and David Pidcock, all L.E.T.S. supporter friends from Britain.
Later, as I got Mike to autograph my copy of his book, I gave him
a poem and asked him to reconsider pressuring Bill Gates for a One
World L.E.T.S. I don't think it's going to help much though. My
experience with people who think debt is the problem is that they
cannot seem to distinguish between the legitimate debt for that which
they received and the illegitimate debt for that which they received
nothing, the interest. Just like having the WTO in Bill Gates's
hometown seemed heaven-sent, so too, meeting up with a monetary
reformer on a crusade during the same time interval also seemed a
heaven-sent chance. We'll see though I've never met someone yet who
will accept the error of their ways and change strategies in mid-

Amtrak only has one train trip to Seattle per day but offers a
bus ride four more times so I left Vancouver by bus around noon and
arrived in Seattle around 4p.m.
I had already found out that the biggest Holdem Poker action was
at the Hideaway Casino on Aurora Ave. and I quickly found a reasonable
motel nearby from where I can attend my anti-WTO events during the day
and earn my way playing poker in the evenings. And who knows, I
invited Bill to come on down to play a few hands. Maybe he will. I'm
sure it's not often he gets the chance to find people who can afford
his stakes but no matter how small the stakes to him, the biggest
legal game in town keeps it serious even for him.

Seattle Times L.E.T.S. article!:
I got a real thrill when I opened Sunday's Seattle Times:

>>Sunday Nov. 28, 1999
by Nita Lelyveld, Knight Ridder Newspapers
BERKELEY, Calif - When Dr. Janet Weiss wanted to get her
house painted recently, she reached into her wallet not for U.S.
dollars but for Bread - a home-grown currency printed right in her own
neighborhood. It was currency she earned as a patient adviser, helping
people with medical problems cut through HMO red tape.
Brian Block was paid in Bread for keeping the books for a local
organic farm. He then used it to buy onions, garlic, snap peas and
other vegetables that the farm delivers weekly to his neighborhood.
Bread (short for Berkeley Regional Exchange And Development)
doesn't look like ordinary money. Instead of a president's face in the
middle, there's, well... bread. It comes not in dollar amounts but in
denominations of hours - one hour, half an hour, a quarter hour -
representing the time spent on labor.
And Bread doesn't change hands in impersonal transactions at the
"It used to be, before most of us were born, that you helped
your neighbor put up a barn and when you needed a barn raised the
whole community came out to help you," Weiss said. "It wasn't quite
hour for hour, but it was favor for favor - I have something you
need, you have something I need. Bread is about looking around you and
realizing that you can find what you need right here at home."
To earn Bread, people offer goods and services that are listed in
a directory; to spend it, they check the directory for the goods and
services they want. The list contains no corporate megastores or
national chains: Bread must be earned locally and spent locally - the
point being to foster community spending that stays in the
neighborhood and strengthens it.
If this all sounds a bit Northern California crunchy-granola, it
is - and it isn't.
Bread is only one of more than 60 local currencies being used in
places such as Gainesville, Fla; Waldo, Maine; and Durango, Colo.
There is such a currency in Philadelphia, too. Called Equal
Dollars, it is printed by a nonprofit East Falls organization,
Resources for Human Development.
Members of the Equal Dollars Community Currency and Bartering
System can spend their bills at West Philadelphia's White Dog Cafe,
which accepts them four days a week for up to half of the price of a
meal. They can spend a combination of cash and Equal Dollars to get
their computers repaired, buy office supplies, have their teeth
cleaned or order curtains. They can rent tools from the Equal Dollar
tool-lending library or buy food from its co-op.
"When you tell people you're printing your own money, they look
at you a little strangely, like they expect the police to bust into
the place at any moment," said project directory Vanessa Williams.
It's perfectly legal. The federal government has no problem with
local currencies as long as the bills can't be mistaken for its own.
The bills also can't come in denominations valued at less than $1.
And, as with any currency that changes hands, it has to be declared as
taxable income.
So each local currency must have a cash equivalent. For Bread,
which is printed by the organization for which it is named, one hour
equals $12. Equal Dollars, measured in units, have equal cash
equivalents (five units is the same as $5). Here, too, an hour's work
is valued at $12.
Part of the aim of the systems is to make people really think
about the value of work - and to put a higher value on an hour of
labor than the $5.15 minimum wage.
The concept of local currencies isn't new: During the Depression,
some communities printed their own scrip. The modern trend got its
start several decades ago with experiments by the E.F. Schumacher
Society, a nonprofit organization in Great Barrington, Mass.; named
for the author of "Small is Beautiful: Economics As If People
Unlike some bartering systems nationwide, Equal Dollars focuses
on individuals and small businesses in struggling areas.
"We felt that there needed to be a new way for people who are
disadvantaged and often left out of the economic process to have
access to services and to have access to capital," said Williams, the
"In a lot of urban areas, you're told that they're a wasteland
and that there's really nothing that can be done or should be done.
We don't believe that. We think this is at least part of a solution.<<

JCT: Wow, what a wonderful fluke. I hope Bill Gates reads it.
Sure many rich people are bright but it doesn't mean that rich people
are necessarily bright. This will put Bill to the test and is a great
article to point to if he has any problems with the concept.

Alliance for Democracy meeting:
It was a packed out meeting and I couldn't get into the hall
though I could hear some of the speeches. Some of the anti-poverty
biggies were speaking: Susan George, Martin Khor. And as usual, like
in the TOES meeting in Cologne, the message was that things are bad,
will get worse, and we must fight to stop them. What we do to stop
them and what alternatives we use was not discussed. So I spent most
of my time outside passing out over 150 Gates prayer poems while the
pitch kept getting smoother: "Cancel the interest, not the debt. If
the debt doesn't grow, it's eventually paid off. It's the debt growth
that keeps us swamped in debts." Most people who had heard of local
currency were surprised and agreed. One fellow's daughter even
belonged to her community's system!I met two people from the ATTAC
conference in Paris.

Jubilee 2000 St. James church Prayer meeting:
The St. James cathedral was packed. Again, I couldn't get in but
could hear the speakers. Again, the same litany bemoaning the problem
of debt and cheerleading opposition to it. "Stop the WTO" and "We
won't take it anymore" was always a rousing cry though what we need to
take its place was, as usual, not addressed.
I passed out another 150 Gates Prayer Poems at the end of the
services. Again, a lot of people had heard of community currency.
Tomorrow, Pauline joins me for the rest of the week's public
demonstrations. Her European L.E.T.S. Tour report is now finished and
will be posted in a few days. And it sounds like her train trip west
had some interesting adventures for the report on this, possibly our
last, adventure of the millennium.
John C. "The Engineer" Turmel, Founder, Abolitionist Party of Canada
915-2045 Carling Ave., Ottawa, K2A 1G5, Tel/Fax: 613-728-2196
LETS Abolish Interest Rates http://www.cyberclass.net/turmel
For TURMEL topics http://www.egroups.com/group/turmel

David Lloyd-Jones

Nov 29, 1999, 3:00:00 AM11/29/99

John Turmel <bc...@FreeNet.Carleton.CA> wrote >

> JCT: I'm John Turmel, a L.E.T.S. community currency banking
> systems engineer. The last major anti-poverty demonstration of the
> millennium is taking place at the World Trade Organization (WTO)
> meeting in Seattle. I decided to get myself a 30-day Rail Pass so I
> could stop anywhere or go anywhere I wanted in Canada and the U.S.
> before and after the WTO meeting.

And while cabinet ministers and administrators from around the world gather
in Seattle to demonstrate, and in fact do useful work, against poverty, we
have the garbage burners and bottle throwers of some warped new Woodstock
Nation gathering to celebrate the good old days. Protectionism. The nation
state. Nationalism. Beggar thy neighbor.

Smoot-Hawley and the Blowfish.


Reply all
Reply to author
0 new messages