Empowering people to grapple with and challenge big banks – Brett Scott

Brett Scott, author of the forthcoming The Heretic’s Guide to Global Finance: Hacking the Future of Money (Pluto, 2013) has written an article for Liberal Conspiracy explaining his plans to fundraise for and then establish a London School of Financial Activism.

We posted Brett’s video call-out a few days ago (embedded again in this article), and you can find out more about donating to the project here.

UPDATE: Today’s the last day of fundraising. Brett has still got 9 special hardcover versions of his book to exchange for donations. Click the link to find out more.

Brett Scott

We often obsess about regulatory battles and high politics when considering how to curtail the excesses of big financial institutions, but one of the biggest sources of power for the financial sector is simply the poor state of financial education among everyday citizens.

Most schools don’t teach people about how financial institutions work in any depth, leaving us to rely on small groups of frequently unaccountable experts.

It is a major problem in a democratic society when the workings of politically powerful interest groups such as Barclays and Goldman Sachs appear obscure and alienating.

Citizens seldom feel confident in challenging such institutions and it’s this power asymmetry that enables banks and big funds to frequently get away with selling inappropriate products and lending to projects that many people disagree with.

It might take a while for the government to improve financial literacy though, so more grassroots forms of education are needed in the interim. The world needs an extensive network of engaged financial watchdogs in all major global financial centres, and that’s why I am currently in the process of raising money to start a London School of Financial Activism, aimed at helping campaigners to grapple with the financial sector.

I’m seeking to develop adventurous, experimental forms of learning that will immerse campaigners within the financial dark arts. There’s more to this than education for education’s sake.

Cities like London and New York are the world’s most powerful financial centres, and financial institutions in these cities steer money across the globe, impacting all industries and all governments. By coming to grips with the financial sector, campaigners in these cities have an unparalleled potential to impact global capital flows.

‘Financial activism’ does not only refer to campaigns that target the financial sector. It refers to campaigns that use financial instruments to help further social and environmental causes, as in the case of shareholder activism. Importantly, it also refers to the process of creating alternative forms of finance that bypass mainstream financial institutions.

Imagine a society in which all people felt they had the ability to directly challenge the financial sector, or to build their own alternatives. That society doesn’t currently exist, but as the Occupy protests showed, there is a major desire among ordinary people to build their capacity to do that.

My idea for a school is but one form of financial education, and I’d welcome any comments on what other approaches you think could work in empowering citizens.

The Heretic’s Guide to Global Finance

Hacking the Future of Money

Brett Scott

Shows how activists can tap into the internal dynamics of the sector to disrupt it and showcases the growing alternative finance movement.

£12.99 only £11.50 on the Pluto site

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