University of Vermont

Members of CDAE Spread Economic Solutions with the Gund Institute

Inspired by Occupy Wall Street events, the Gund Institute offers a teach-in to the community

Josh Farley  speaks at Economic Solutions Worth Spreading teach-in
Josh Farley speaks at Economic Solutions Worth Spreading teach-in at Ira Allen Chapel on October 24, 2011

“Tax Bads, Not Goods,” “Separation of Corporations and State,” “Measure What Matters: GPI for Vermont,” are some of the bumper-sticker worthy messages to come out of yesterday’s “Economic Solutions Worth Spreading” event, put on by the Gund Institute for Ecological Economics.  Six of the fifteen presenters were faculty and graduate students from the CDAE M.S. program, all delivering solutions ranging from the impassioned to the stark.   

Many of the presenters posed the question, “where does money come from?” with Ben Braaten, CDAE MS candidate telling the audience that for every $100 deposited in the bank, $900 is loaned out, or “created,” inflating prices and leading to a boom-bust economy where booms harm the environment with overuse of resources and busts harm families with tough economic times.

Associate Professor Josh Farley highlighted that, of our $50 trillion debt, only $800 billion circulates as hard currency.  The solution?  “Print and Spend,” he called it.  Print more money to be earned and used by the hands of Americans, with no interest rates associated.  This method, he said, would not “indebt our children,” like our current system.

 M.S. candidate Brian Kelly’s proposal was met with lively applause from the audience: curb the speculation in financial trading with “speed bumps for financial markets that are in overdrive.”  Although placing a 0.25% tax on securities trading and a 0.1% tax on currency transactions, Kelly said, might cut in half the number of transactions that occur, the taxes would still generate $150 billion, money that might help battle our deficit, or enhance our communities.

Overall the teach-in “instructors” were calling for a more community-based economy that respects citizens of all income levels as well as our ecological limits to economic growth—a tenet of ecological economics.

CDAE M.S. candidate Chloe Wieland concluded the sessions with a simple, but poignant question: “Are we calling for radical change?  Well, we have been undergoing radical change for 40 years,” citing the shrinking middle class and the rise of a plutocratic economy.  She offered a three-part solution to the teaching sessions: 1. Change the rules that guide the system; 2. Make genuine progress the goal (Measure What Matters); 3. Recognize what is physically and ecologically possible.