It’s the Money, stupid!

weltgewandt e.V. invited together with the public library Wolfdietrich Schnurre an event to launch the learning platform on Economic Literacy in Europe in Berlin on 19th May 2022. The seats were all taken as four colleagues presented their courses on Modern Monetary Theory, Strategies to Manage a Crises, Introduction to Feminist Economics and Economy and Climate for discussion. In times of burgeoning inflation, the course on Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) in particular provoked questions from the audience. Is it appropriate for a government to spend money and create jobs even if government revenues are not too high? Can spending money lead to inflation? No, it cannot, say representatives of MMT. Why? The best way to find out is to read the course.

Following this, money was also the focus of interest. Attention now turned to the question of its digitalisation and that is, according to plans of the European Central Bank to introduce a Digital Euro. What consequences will this have for citizens? What is likely to be a curse and what a blessing?

Guests were invited who discuss different positions on the topic: Dirk Schrade from the Deutsche Bundesbank (as part of the System of European Central Banks), Dr. Norbert Häring, journalist and book author, and Dr. Dirk Ehnts, board spokesman of the Pufendorf Society. The latter questioned the economic necessity of a digital euro – that is, of “electronic cash”. Digital payment has long been common practice and works well, he said. “We have the solution, but we don’t know what the problem is” – to which the digital euro should provide the answer.

Dirk Schrade referred to the reasons for the intended introduction: a) technical developments because less cash would be used especially in some countries and b) currency competition. He was referring to the Libra, now Diem project by Facebook (today Meta). Its worldwide implementation would have affected the power of central banks in favour of large corporations. Dr. Norbert Häring, on the other hand, warned against the abolition of cash and the associated loss of privacy. He pointed to the danger that a digital euro could go hand in hand with the introduction of a social credit system on the Chinese model. Corresponding pilot projects are already being implemented in Bologna, Rome, Vienna and Bavaria, he said.

Democracy must be defended,” meant Dirk Schrader and emphasised that much depends on how a digital euro is designed.

Afterwards, the audience discussed this and other questions with the speakers and with each other over summer rolls, pretzels and drinks.

Not a mystery: Workshop on …

… basic socio-economic education in Lublin/Poland

Social inequality, ecology, climate, housing, health, gender justice, etc. – almost everything has an economic dimension. You don’t have to have a higher education to understand such connections. This is exactly the approach of our cooperation of colleagues from seven European countries. They met from 22nd to 26th February 2022 for a five-day workshop at the WSEI University in Lublin/Poland to discuss socio-economic topics and to test methods for Economic Literacy in adult education.

One session started with an “economic speed dating” about social inequality. What connection do the participants see between inequality and self-confidence, what connections between inequality and climate change or health? In a subsequent input could the colleagues learn definitions of inequality, aspects of the history of global inequality, today’s income and wealth inequality between countries, and more. The different ways in which societies contribute to CO2 emissions and thus to global warming were also discussed.

Then curiosity and intuition were asked for as participants explored the environment, considering these questions: “Where can you perceive inequality?”, “Who is the infrastructure (not) built for?”, “What role does money play?”, “Where around you might there be inequality that you cannot see?”.

The exchange about the explorations afterwards moved on to discussing measures to minimise inequality. After all, the division into rich and poor, healthy and non-healthy, impaired – non-impaired etc. is not just a moral problem that comes with humiliation for those affected. It is a macroeconomic problem that affects the whole society. Economies miss their potential and resources are wasted.

In the course of the week, a whole bouquet of topics and methods was gathered to develop educational materials for the common learning platform. The focus was also on issues of growth and sustainability, taxation, different schools of economics, migration, feminist economics and the further digitalisation of money.

After the experience of an online workshop in November 2020, the project group had opted for a hybrid event this time. Thus, participants from four partner organisations in Lublin and colleagues from Barcelona, Dublin and Tartu (Estonia) were present on screen. This enabled a much more intensive, inspiring learning experience.

Feedback from one participant: “Now I have an idea of a European cooperation. An ecxiting and very fruitful experience.

Oeconomia, the film

The creation of money and debts: The filmmaker Carmen Losmann asks the grandees of the financial world naive questions, questions that do hit the heart of our economic system: How does money come into the world? Who takes over the debts? Does an economy only grow when credits grow? Is profit only possible when people, companies or the state get into debt? Who collapses first, our ecosystem earth or capitalism? In the film, fundamental economic interrelationships are vividly presented and confirmed by prominent bankers. Citizens also have their say, who trace these connections and ask critical questions. An instructive film, which is not an educational film after all, often makes you smile – and makes you want to deal with these questions further.

Co-production of the German speaking public TV stations ZDF and 3sat, shown at the Berlinale 2020.

The film is in German with English subtitles and vice versa.

Photo: City of London, Wikimedia commons