How and why Lietaer is wrong

Since this topic comes up again and again here are a few points showing how and why Lietaer is wrong with his basic assumptions about the features of money being:

  1. Money is geographically defined
  2. Money is created from nothing
  3. It is created through loans
  4. Interest is payed on debt

Source: The Future of Money, Bernard Liataer

—cited after a talk by Smári McCarthy

Money is defined by a state

It is easy to assume that money is geographically defined. But what looks like a feature of money in reality is a feature of the state which defines money. In fact a state is needed to define money because you need a superior power to keep money scarce. And a state is geographically defined.

Modern states have strong laws to prevent people to generate new money. In material money there is a lot of "built-in" power to make it difficult to fake it. These laws and the accompanying power to enforce them is needed for any type of money.

Historical states controlled the resources the money symbols have been made from - namely gold mines.

You can say that money can not exist without this power relationship. Or to say it bluntly: Violence is built into any money.

Peer production works without money so at least for this reason no state is needed in a peer production based society.

Money is created by abstract labor

Less could be more wrong than to assume that money is created from nothing. In fact there is no use for money unless you want to exchange abstract labor. So the basis of money is abstract labor and exchanging it. Whether or not abstract labor comes as some concrete service or as a product doesn't matter here.

This also falsifies that money is created by loans. Money is created by abstract labor and nothing else.

In the core or peer production there is no abstract labor. Therefore money is not needed in a peer production based society.

Surplus value is created by labor

Human labor is able to create more use value than it needs for a living. If this surplus use value is turned into surplus exchange value than the capitalist earns more money than s/he invested in machinery and wages. This mechanism is the core of any money based society and can be abolished only by abolishing abstract labor as such.

Interest is not a category on itself but a derivative of this surplus exchange value. The loan giver indirectly invests and since s/he also made the production process possible by her loan there is no reason that s/he should not get a part of the revenue.


Lietaer is not able to peek beyond the very surface of things. It speaks for itself that Lietaer has so many followers nowadays.

What would be really needed is to understand how money based systems work and - as a next step - understand that a post-capitalist society can be thought only without money. Peer production is the road to such a society.

StefanMerten/Thoughts/LietaerWrong (last edited 2010-04-26 19:17:25 by StefanMerten)

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