Hackney campaigner takes on banks as he aims to tackle widening gap between rich and poor and escalating house prices
16:41 27 December 2013
The first time I hear author and campaigner Ben Dyson speak is at a social enterprise in Dalston.
He is giving a talk at a screening of documentary 97% Owned, a film in which he features and uncovers the way money is created by banks in the UK.
There are audible gasps and people shaking their heads at the event at Passing Clouds in Richmond Road as he reveals that most money being created in the economy is not ‘‘real’’, but an accounting trick.
Mr Dyson, 28, of Dalston Square, Dalston, was so appalled about the current situation that he founded not-for profit organisation Positive Money, based at Goswell Road, Finsbury.
It is aiming to change the UK money system to reduce boom and bust cycles, reduce the widening gap between the rich and the poor, stem unemployment and stabilise rising housing prices.
Mr Dyson believes that the current economic system is not working as banks are producing more and more money unchecked.
He said: “97 per cent of our money is numbers created by banks making loans.
“When you walk into a bank to get a mortgage, that money does not come from somebody’s life savings.
“It comes from a computer system. What it means is that the more debt people go into, the more new money is created. The amount of money in the economy keeps rising at the level of debt.”
He first came across the issue while studying economics and development at the School of Oriental and African Studies in Bloomsbury.
He discovered a book called The Grip of Debt by Michael Rowbothan while in the university library one day and it opened his eyes to what was happening in the banking industry.
He left university after his second year to join a start-up which trained professionals entering the financial world and although he enjoyed it, he said he “got frustrated that no one was talking about this issue about money”. So he started a blog and after he attracted around 500 followers, he decided to set up Positive Money.
“I took a 50 to 60 per cent pay cut”, he said. “It was not a good career move but it needed to be done.” He is now campaigning for a change to the system which allows banks to create money unchallenged.
“We are working on a policy level to get the policy makers to change how the system works,” he said.
“We say that we should take this power to create money from the banks to a democratically accountable body so it can’t be misused. The debt doubled in the eight years running up to the financial crisis in 2008.
“It went from £1 trillion in 2000 to £2.2 trillion by the time of the financial crisis. Overall, it makes inequality worse.
“People who can afford to invest in property tend to benefit more and it increases the gap between the rich and poor.
“When you look at the economy, it redistributes from the bottom 90 per cent to the richest 10 per cent.
“We want to see new money go to the real economy instead of property bubbles and financial markets.
“With quantitative easing, banks have created £375bn which has gone to the financial markets and has never really reached the high street.”
He urged other people to get involved and back his campaign.
He added: “People can write to their MP. If anybody wants to find out more, there are videos on www.positivemoney.org.
‘‘There’s also a Hackney Positive Money group, which meets every month and people can learn more about how the banking the system works.”