An interesting development in the campaign for free banking has been the emergence of social media. I admit that when I first read F.A. Hayek’s “The Denationalization of Money” I felt that a very good pamphlet ended on a rather damp note, with the following call:
What we now need is a Free Money Movement comparable to the Free Trade Movement ofthe 19th century, demonstrating not merely the harm caused by acute inflation, which could justifiably be argued to be avoidable even with present institutions, but the deeper effects of producing periods of stagnation that are indeed inherent in the present monetary arrangements.
— Hayek, F.A. The Denationalization of Money, the Argument Refined (The Institute for Economic Affairs, 2nd edition, 1978)
The problem to my mind was: “that’s nice. But how on Earth do we achieve such a goal?”
Until recently, I was pessimistic about the creation of “a Free Money Movement comparable to the Free Trade Movement” along the Manchester Free Trade Association model. The universities were not helping much, there were no grassroots movements campaigning for this.
What’s changed is social networking platforms such as Facebook. One of its features is the aggregation of people with something in common, for example fanatics of chess, The Velvet Underground, Hello Kitty fashion accessories, and free banking.
As I write there are only 461 fans who list “free banking” on their Facebook profiles, but they are assembled from all over the world. Normally, a group of this kind would tend to become inward looking: a tiny (and shrinking) gathering of money theory nerds meeting once a month in a draughty room in what was once a town hall. But the 461 have listed “free banking” among their lists of causes they support, along with, in some cases chess, The Velvet Underground and Hello Kitty.
So when I happened to look at one of my friends list of causes, and saw “free banking,” I was intrigued enough to check out the group (one click of a mouse), and with another I had joined, and invited 20 more to join. This is how the networks of enthusiasts and the curious can come together, across borders and without the transaction costs of trying to organise a mass movement from scratch.
I’ll make one precdiction: there are going to be a lot more than 461 fans of free banking on Facebook.