On the Inauguration of
the Gesell Research Society’s Bulletin “Study of Free Economy”
the wake of the crumbling of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet
Union, those of us who have consistently opposed the repression of freedom and
the human spirit by totalitarian communism have good cause to reconfirm the
validity of our libertarian beliefs. At the same time, we may also reconfirm
the correctness of John Maynard Keynes’ prediction which sprang from his work
on the ideas of Silvio Gesell. That prediction, to be found in Keynes’ General
Theory, went as follows:
prophet Silvio Gesell, whose work contains flashes of deep insight… I believe
that the future will learn more from the spirit of Gesell than from that of
Marx. The preface to The Natural Economic Order will indicate to the reader,
if he will refer to it, the moral quality of Gesell. The answer to Marxism is,
I think, to be found along the lines of this preface.”
We here at Study of Free
Economy have long been fascinated by the implications of these words of Keynes.
Unfortunately, information regarding Gesell has been extremely hard to come
by, with the result that he remained for many years a treasure whose seal had
yet to be broken. This situation began to change only in the 1980s. Following
the success of the Greens Party in West Germany, environmentally-minded economists
who constituted one wing of that movement began to assess the contemporary significance
of Gesell’s theories. It was under the guidance of one of them, Werner Onken,
that the editing and publication of Gesell’s Complete Works began. Another cause
for renewed interest in Gesell’s ideas was provided by the school of economists
calling themselves Post-Keynesians in countries like France, Italy and the USA,
whose reassessment of Keynes’ ideas led to a reconsideration of Gesell too.
As a result of this changing
situation, access to Gesell’s theories has become progressively easier, and
some three years ago we formed the Gesell Research Society in order to collect
as many relevant documents as possible and to read and discuss their contents.
The reasoning for our looking as widely as possible for materials was that,
while on the one hand Gesell has been rated very highly by Keynes, in other
quarters he has been consigned to the realms of economic crank alongside such
figures as the Royal Air Force Technical Officer and economic theorist Major
Douglas, or the Nobel Prize-winner in chemistry and pioneer in nuclear technology
Frederick Soddy, with the result that all three have been long ignored.
We here have always found
it hard to consent to the label of “crank” pinned upon these men.
True, they have as many theoretical points in common as those upon which they
differ. While in their political outlooks they bear little resemblance to one
another, the contemporary relevance of their economic ideas can hardly be questioned.
A case in point is the ecologically-rooted economics of Soddy. Our decision
not to give Keynes’ views on Gesell the benefit of the doubt was perhaps also
affected by the arguments of the New York Federal Bank economist Garvy, whose
empirical research on Keynes’ own remarks on the formation of his theory has
thrown up a large number of questions.
Despite the limited size
of our Research Society, we have been able to collect a considerable number
of documents, and it has been proposed that we publish a Bulletin in order to
make them accessible to as many readers as possible. Although we have few proposals
of our own to make, the fact that information on Gesell in Japanese is virtually
non-existent made us feel the need to at least publish the documents themselves
so as to attract as wide an interest as possible. If this would add extra to
the Research Society’s own activities, so much the better.
The Bulletin will not merely
be concerned with Gesell himself, but will take up all matters discussed within
the Research Society. Consequently, our coverage will range widely, from the
arguments of Keynes himself to those of his contemporary, the American economist
and self-styled “humble disciple of the German-born Argentinian [Gesell]”
I. Fischer. He planned to send a research team to Woergl in Austria, where attempted
to put Gesell’s ideas on economic reform into practice led to many important
Needless to say, even while
we carry on this far-ranging programme of activities, our interest will be focused
ultimately on Gesell himself. For we are in full agreement with the insights
of Gesell’s close friend Albert Einstein, who wrote: “I became absorbed
in the brilliant prose of Silvio Gesell… The minting of unhoarded money will
quite certainly lead to the creation of a possession system in a different basic
form.” The need for fundamental changes both in the ownership system of
land and the positive liquidity premium of money are also matters on which we
are in complete agreement.