Finding money to address climate change, ecological limits, and other existential threats requires answering the question, “Where can we find the money?”.
One answer is, “The money is in full sight but stagnant — let us use it”.
The world is awash with money, but people store it so they can use it if they need it. Unfortunately, this is not good for communities as accumulated capital is stagnant and wastes investment and spending opportunities. It is worse because those who accumulate wealth tend to store it away from others who would invest or use it.
To solve the problem, we can persuade people not to store capital in financial assets and use it to earn more while helping others who need it. Investors and consumers would be all better off. Housing, energy, water and government infrastructure are good places to start because they can be addressed quickly and at scale.
Community Batteries with Regular Capital Markets
The Australian Energy Market is an example of storing Capital rather than reusing it. The energy regulator guarantees a return on investment to suppliers of transmission and distribution. Consumers cannot invest directly in transmission and distribution, as private interests or government instrumentalities are given the right to supply these services.
Various governments are using this approach with Community Batteries. Governments support private suppliers or shareholder-owned cooperatives rather than communities of consumers to own batteries.
Assume a community of 50 residents need a battery that services fifty houses. The battery has a Capital Value of $200000, and through arbitrage of buying electricity when the price is low and selling high, it earns $40000 per year. There are depreciation and regulated return on investment costs. A Battery Provider has a government-sanctioned monopoly on batteries in the community. The Provider takes $40000 out of the community for the next ten years and still has the batteries at the end of ten years. The Provider supplied $200,000, and the consumers paid $400,000. The Provider still owned the Batteries.
Community Batteries with a Community (Consumer) Capital Market
An alternative would be for the community to own the battery.
The community pays $200000 upfront for the $40,000 yearly savings. The return on investment is 20% for ten years, and the community still has the batteries. Consumers invest $200,000 in the initial batteries and another $200,000 in more Batteries or energy-saving infrastructure. Comparing the Provider approach with the community approach, the community pays $200,000 less and has another $200,000 worth of batteries. The community decides on the distribution of capital in the batteries.
Instead of the community paying the initial $200,000, governments can create the initial money by spending it into existence, and the community can pay the money back from the savings. It will provide the funds to Rewire Australia over the next eight years and build a resilient reliable renewable electricity society without overseas money or increasing government debt and lowering electricity prices.
If the community supplies the initial money, the community decides which consumers get the new batteries. If the government provides the initial capital, the government chooses the ownership share of the batteries. One method selects by the percentage of income each consumer pays for electricity. If a person does not disclose their income, the government sets a figure for them.
Community Payment Capital Markets to Improve Productivity
Capital Markets are notoriously inefficient as they transfer capital and set the price of Capital. The Australian foreign exchange market turnover in April 2022 was 60 times the value of imports plus exports. The market made 59 trades to set the price of foreign currencies. Even worse is the Australian Stock Market, where $5000 of shares move for every $1 of new Capital raised.
In the debt market, where the prices are relatively stable, the cost of Capital is the cost of interest. For long-term debt, the debt market typically doubles the cost of Capital and halves the speed of Capital transfer.
Capital Markets are unproductive because Capital is the ownership of assets that produce goods and services. The value of ownership depends on the uncertain and hard-to-predict future profit. Capital Markets are expensive because of difficulties and uncertainties in setting the price. We need a better form of Capital.
Capital is a human invention. Another form of Capital is the future payment for goods and services from specified assets. The investor risk reduces if the return on investment is a discount on the goods and services. Using the payments market to invest removes the need for a separate Capital Market saving more money. The buyer in a payments market receives the goods plus some of the Capital, so transferring Capital from one party to another. This form of Capital uses less Capital than debt to transfer Capital from one party to another. The amount less is the savings in interest payments.
Setting up Payments Capital Markets
A group of buyers and sellers can come together to set up a market for a specific product and the capital to create the product in the same market. Examples are Affordable Housing for All and Community Ownership of Community Batteries. These examples are relatively small groups, but there can be many small groups. Each group needs goods and services and can join small Payment Capital Markets for those products.
Viewed from a high level, a group of payments capital markets resemble a living cellular organism. Each cell interacts with the physical and economic environments within constraints imposed by the ecosystem. Such an organism can better fit into the earth’s physical ecosystems and complement the natural world rather than try to dominate and recreate the environment to fit the imagined economic world.
Consumer (Community) Capital
Consumer Capital is alternative and complementary to Equity and Debt Capital. It shares the profits from Capital between Consumers and Investors. Unfortunately, Equity and Debt give all the profits from Capital to Investors and tend to be exploitative.
Prepaying for goods and services, giving Consumers a discount when the prepayments are used, and requiring the reinvestment of returned prepayments increase the efficiency of Capital compared to Equity or Debt.
The efficiencies come from:
- Consumer Capital transfers are part of existing Payments.
- Communities are small where responsibility and rewards are transparent, flexible, and trusted.
- There is no need for a separate expensive Capital Market.
- Capital transfers are reinvested, increasing the rate of Capital reuse.
- Capital does not accumulate as unused wealth.