The Kung Story
(English dubbed in German… would be nice to find the original English)
for a just world economy: Elisabeth Gründler portrays the Visionary Bernard Lietaer
home & school
Bernard Lietaer was born in a time of great cold.
February 1942 was not only one of the coldest of the 20th century, his birthplace Lauwe, in the Flemish part of Belgium not far from the French border, was occupied by the Nazis at that time, as was almost all of continental Europe.
His parents’ house was confiscated, the lower floor was used by Wehrmacht officers as a casino.
But he has few memories of this very early childhood.
How his name would be pronounced correctly, I want to know, because I stutter again and again.
“As you wish!”, he replies laughing: “‘Litar in Flemish, Litär in German, and in French Litaire’, the Spaniards say ….
The polyglot Flame does not take it so serious (how his name is pronounced).
We also talk partly in English, partly in German, sometimes we also switch to French.
Multilingualism has a tradition in the Flemish border region near Kortrijk, which is home to the textile industry and the fabric trade and which has changed state affiliation several times over the centuries.
“When my parents didn’t want us children to understand them, they talked in French”, Lietaer recalls.
At the age of twelve, as is customary in his family, he is sent to Godinne to a boarding school run by Jesuits.
In this elite school near Namur, in the French-speaking part of Belgium, the Flanders bourgeoisie has always given their sons humanistic education.
Did this shape him, Jesuit rigor and discipline?
“I learned to think with the ancient languages of Greek and Latin and was trained in all logical disciplines”, he says in retrospect.
“I did not suffer. Learning was easy for me, and when I went to boarding school, it was just introduced that we were allowed to go home every two weeks.”
Early love of travel
The youth meets the expectations of his parents’ home and school and still goes his own way during the long summer holidays.
At the age of 14, he hitchhiked alone to explore the world: first Belgium and France, then Germany, the Alps, finally Italy, Greece and the Middle East.
“At first, my family was nervous”, Lietaer recalls, “but when I came back safe and sound, they left me.”
“I learned the most from the people I met along the way.”
“I have also worked in Austria e.g. as a harvester, and always asked myself a topic that I have studied intensively during my travels.”
“In Italy I studied the Renaissance.”
“I fell in love with the city of Florence and stayed there all the holidays, although I originally wanted to travel all over Italy.”
When he explores the French metropolis at the age of fifteen during the summer holidays, he meets a Spaniard of his own age who does not speak a word of French or English.
“We first communicated with hands and feet and visited the city together, I became his guide and interpreter.”
“To thank him, he read me poems by Garcia Lorca every evening.”
“That was why I learned Spanish.”
“This is the only language I have learned because of its beauty.”
He is always looking for the key to help him understand the country and its people.
He also writes about his chosen topic for the local newspaper of his hometown.
“When I visited the Middle East, I studied the political context beforehand.”
“Only then can one understand the Arab countries and Israel.”
“Besides, I had to choose, because I didn’t want to read everything!”
“I have always prepared myself intensively for my travels, because only if you know something, you can also understand.”
Spiritual search in India
The key to Indian culture, the young Bernard Lietaer believes, is religion.
In the summer of 1960, the 19-year-old high school graduate hitchhiked to the subcontinent.
In Benares, he gets introduced to Indian Raga music by Raymondo Panikkar, then retreats to an ashram to learn meditation and get initiated into Sidhi yoga.
“It’s not for me”, he explains to his teacher after a few weeks.
“You are absolutely right”, he affirms.
“Sidhi yoga is not for you.”
“You are destined for karma yoga!”
“Karma means ‘to act’, and karma yoga means to interfere with and shape the world.”
The young man decides to start immediately.
He leaves the monastery and turns to a typical Western sport, mountaineering.
This is pure actionism, “he says today”, a typical Western activity.
But this part of his journey should not be so completely without meaning.
This part of the journey should also have a practical purpose.
Lietaer seeks the advice of the legendary Sir Edmund Hillary, who was the first to conquer Mount Everest, which summit he could risk as a relatively untrained beginner.
This mountain with its approximately 7500 meters was not attractive enough for professional climbers until then and as a result has not yet been mapped.
Bernard Lietaer follows the advice of the famous Explorer.
On the way to Nepal he meets a young British man from Rhodesia, with whom he dares to climb.
Two weeks later he returns, ten kilos lighter, with the map of the mountain in his luggage.
“India has changed me” he says in retrospect.
Acting in the world
Bernard Lietaer now knows what he wants: to become an engineer and to shape the world.
But a humanistic baccalaureate alone does not entitle him to study technology.
He returns again to a Jesuit school in Brussels to prepare for an additional mathematics exam.
“That was one of the two years I worked really hard”, he laughs.
“The second year was at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) when I wrote my second thesis there”, a master’s thesis.
In 1961 he enrolled at the Belgian University of Leuven, where he has been taught bilingually for centuries.
Here, the language-loving student becomes president of Belgium’s only bilingual student association, the Conférence Olivaint de Belgique COB, for two years.
Here students of all political directions could train the tools of public life.
“Each of us could present his theses in both national languages.”
“You could answer a French argument in Flemish and vice versa”, Lietaer recalls.
“There I learned to speak, write and defend my theses with arguments.”
Twice he organizes exploratory trips to Ivory Coast and Venezuela for himself and his fellow students during the semester break.
We were always a group of 35 to 40 students.
“Each of us had to prepare a topic, such as private investment, healthcare system, etc.”
“We gave lectures to experts from the country.”
“Then we jointly produced a report that was published.”
“Shortly after our arrival there was a severe earthquake with many dead”
“which completely upset the program, but the learning possibilities in such a situation were infinite.”
In 1965, the University of Leuven was split into two.
The old university remains Flemish, and a new French-speaking university is being built in front of the city.
For someone who can now easily express himself in several languages, this was a throwback to the dark past.
“The University Library was divided by leaving volumes 1, 3, 5, 7 of encyclopedias in the Flemish University,”
“and placing volumes 2, 4, 6 in French. This is not just stupidity, this is a crime!”
The lab that he needed for his experiments in plasma physics, had been outsourced to the Flemish University.
It would have been no problem for him to write his thesis in Flemish.
But because he was enrolled at the French part of the university, he was only allowed to use the facilities of the French university.
He had to find another topic.
And the laboratory was empty all the time, nobody needed it.
“That’s why I left Belgium.”
“I did not want to endure such narrow-mindedness.”
And he is taking another insight with him to America,
where he will study and work for the next decade: scientists and researchers are not the ones who decide how the world is shaped.
They are, he has painfully experienced, play ball from other forces.
As a pure technician, he can never realize the karma yoga he is looking for.
comment: well let’s look at Elon Musk.
He surely changed/has an impact on the way mankind travels (more (hopefully renewal) electric, less fossil).
He chose the entrepreneurial way.
Basically creating products and companies, selling those products and companies, building better and bigger companies that would “change the world” (the everyday way humans survive).
He did this by…
1) growing up in harsh South Africa environment
2) at the age of 12 creating his first “product” he made, was a computer game called “blaster” (source code was published in a magazine and he received $500, It was “a trivial game…but better than Flappy Bird”, Musk was quoted saying.)
3) immigrating to USA studying economics and physics
4) a bit of luck (basically profiting from the .dot bubble, where bigger companies would buy “anything-internet”)
“In February 1999, Compaq Computer paid US$305 million to acquire Zip2.:109 Elon and Kimbal Musk, the original founders, netted US$22 million and $15 million respectively.:109 The company was purchased to enhance Compaq’s AltaVista web search engine.”
… back to the topic.
The path from Engineer to economic politician
In 1967, the young engineer left Belgium, joined MIT in the USA and simultaneously enrolled at Harvard.
He changes the faculty and initially acquires an MBA.
In his thesis, his second Master’s Thesis, he deals with the international financial business.
It is entitled Financial Management and Foreign exchange trading.
An application technique for reducing risks”.
The international monetary system of Bretton Woods, with its stable exchange rates against the dollar, is in its final stages at this time, and Lietaer is using all his mathematical and technical skills to develop a computer-controlled system that makes fluctuating exchange rates economically manageable.
A know how that is urgently needed in practice a few years later in 1971 fixed exchange rates are abolished.
In 1969, Bernard Lietaer opened an academic career at Harvard.
But he wants to shape, not just describe, and finds that counseling is the most effective way to continue learning.
Because, according to Belgian law, he can also do development work as an engineer instead of a military one, he hires an American consulting firm on the condition that he is sent to a developing country.
This is followed by several years of consulting work in Mexico, Australia and Peru.
In Peru, he advises the nationalized mining group on how it can increase its foreign exchange earnings in times of fluctuating exchange rates.
Lietaer develops special computer models and is therefore very successful.
“About 70 percent of Peruvian exports were checked by my computer models.
Within a short period of time, Peru achieved an increase in its foreign exchange income of around 20 percent.”
At that time, Lietaer already saw the impoverishment of the countries of the South as a serious problem and believed that he could contribute to Peru’s development through his work as a consultant.
But the reality of the corrupt power elites catches up with him.
The Peruvian government bought Mirage fighter jets with the foreign exchange earnings.
“Absolutely pointless he says,” there was no enemy, and even if there had been, the military could not use the Mirage at all.
I had to admit to myself that I had been working on the wrong problems in the wrong place, he sums up this part of his life.
A money expert develops
Lietaer gets into an existential crisis and decides in 1975 to take a break from consulting work.
The family reasons make his return to Belgium desirable, and he accepts a call from his alma mater in Leuven for a professorship in international finance and international trade.
He taught there until 1978.
At the same time, he was entrusted by a research centre in Brussels with a research project on Latin America.
The result is a study on the development of Latin America, in which he forecasts the debt crisis of the 1980s and develops proposals for solutions on how to respond creatively.
For the first time, Lietaer recognizes and formulates that the causes of economic misery are rooted in the monetary system.
The reality is developing exactly as predicted: more than 80 currency crises will follow worldwide in the next two decades.
The change between practice and research and teaching is to become a pattern of his life: whenever he reaches limits in his practical work, he withdraws to a university for the processing of his experiences and the development of new models and visions.
A “reverse Sabbatical,” he calls it.
“I always teach what I have to learn for my own research. This is a very effective way for me to learn.”
At the Belgian Central Bank
When Lietaer is about to complete his research after three years, he receives a call from a headhunter who wants to win him over to the Belgian Central Bank.
He decides to return to practice perhaps, he hopes, there he has the opportunity to contribute to solutions to the instability of the international monetary system.
In 1978 he became head of a 200-employee department for organization and computer application at the Belgian Central Bank.
It is the time when (German Chancellor) Helmut Schmidt and Valéry Giscard d’Estaing invented the ECU (predecessor of the €uro) to protect the European economy from the exchange rate fluctuations of the US dollar.
At that time, this original form of the common European currency was still pure book money, which was used exclusively for foreign trade and for which programs had to be developed.
It is the first project that flutters onto the desk of the new head of department, Lietaer, and for some time he believes that he has found the right design options here at the Central Bank.
But his hope of making a meaningful contribution to the positive development of the monetary system at the center of power is not fulfilled.
In a conversation with the head of the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) in Basel, de facto the Central Bank of Central Banks, he realizes that central banks are part of this vulnerable system that they keep going, and that they are not responsible for improvements.
auto translated from source:
thanks to Elisabeth Gründler & archive.org
actually it is “easy” to create “a better world”
all that would be needed is
banks giving easy access loans to “good projects”
not “bad projects”
the GLS Bank is claiming to do this, but i do not think they are really doing a good job
“Greenpeace activists have landed on the roof of a European Central Bank building to protest the financial institution’s loans policy, which they say favors heavily polluting industries”
- Between mid-March and mid-May 2020, as part of its response to the coronavirus pandemic, the European Central Bank (ECB) purchased corporate bonds to the tune of almost €30 billion.
- €2.4 billion went into bonds of integrated, upstream and downstream oil and gas companies. The estimated carbon footprint of bond purchases of Shell – one of the most polluting companies on earth – Total, Eni, Repsol and OMV is almost 8 million tons of CO2.
- A total of €4.4 billion went to utilities, with the bond purchases of prominent polluters Engie and EON alone contributing an estimated 3.2 million tons of CO2.
- A further €5.6 billion went into industries such as aerospace, automobiles, cement, and other environmentally damaging companies, such as Airbus, Daimler or Peugeot.
Read the full analysis by Greenpeace Central and Eastern Europe.