The money reform party logo - a set of scales

The Money Reform Party

Star Woes

Chapter 4

Like their fellow settlers on Standardia and Bacchanalia, the good people of Elysium had also settled down to the serious business of turning their new planet home into another Eden. They had been particularly pleased to discover that the soil type and climate of a nearby valley was perfect for the cultivation of tea bushes. Other more substantial food stuffs were grown, with rosettes awarded to those able to produce the best vegetables.

Those less green-fingered types engaged themselves in the erection of dwellings. One for every family, each with their own potting shed in the garden at the back, although in most instances it was not quite clear which structure was the house and which the shed.

Nevertheless, as the years passed, they flourished and bred, mostly dahlias and hydrangeas, but some people had children as well, but then some people do.

The biggest problem on the planet were the grass verges along the public roads. Some people diligently trimmed theirs neatly; others did nothing on the grounds that the land in question was not their own private land so it was hardly their responsibility. This attitude usually received the retort that the neglectful ones did not even do much to keep their own little plots in order, and was not it a disgrace and should not the council do something about it?

Unfortunately there was no governing council on the planet Elysium. Too many other activities filled people's spare time. Most importantly, there was the Elysium Gardening Club and the Elysium Horticultural Society. The members of both these august bodies liked to look down their noses at each other, but they combined to utterly despise those whom they regarded as Non-Gardeners. These, lesser mortals in the planet's subtle polity, included the members of the Elysium Ex-Conscientious Objectors' Association, the Old Tattoonians Cricket Club, the Imperial Starship Spotters' Club, the Elysium Mother and Toddler Group and the Elysium Chapter of the Valhades Demons.

This latter group had recently perfected the wooden velocipede and upon these vehicles, the Demons would hurtle slowly along the variously trimmed lanes of Little Elysium-on-the-Planet (the name that the good people of Elysium had bestowed upon their village).

It was one evening at the Elysium Gardening Club, quite the largest of the planet's semi-official bodies, that the matter of the verges finally came to a head. Sitting in the Little Elysium-on-the-Planet parish hall, beneath the portraits of the Emperor and Lord Bader gazing malevolently down (Oh, but they do so much for the Empire, you know, really, and it is not amazing that Lord Bader can still fly his Bow-fighter without any legs?), Mr Harold Sodbuster considered the proposition before him.

"Let me see if I've got this right, Derek. You think that the only way to sort out the matter of Elysium's verge problem is if those people who do trim their verges, or rather those verges which correspond to their own aligning property..."

"Eh?" queried old Mr Grumbleweed.

"Those verges next to their houses..."

"Aye."

".. should be paid a stipend by the civic authorities."

"What's a stipend?" asked old Mr Grumbleweed.

"A sort of wage."

"So why not say so?" asked Beryl Skyspotter.

"Well, because the word wage is so... well, so... you know? What workers get paid," answered Mrs Grace Flowerplucker.

"What, like people who trim verges?"

"Yes... No... I mean, its what people get paid who have to work for a living."

"But we all have to work for a living. Mind you some people work harder than others. That couple at number 6... always charging about on that velocipede of theirs. You hardly ever see them do a stroke of work and why ever did they need to write the number 6 three times on their front gate for? I'll never...."

"Ladies and gentlemen," called an authoritative Mr Sodbuster. "Can we get back to the matter in hand?"

A respectful hush descended, allowing Mr Sodbuster to summarise their difficulties.

"As I see it, Derek, whilst your proposition is clearly very public-spirited and very much in keeping with the aims of this Club, unlike those daft Horticulturists with their constant measuring and experimenting, it does present us with two fundamental difficulties. One, there are no civic authorities and, two, we have no money with which to pay people."

Grace Flowerplucker raised an elegantly manicured hand.

"Whay do we not constitute a civic authority?"

"Way do we not? Oh, why do we not? Oh, yes. Well, the authority would need to use this hall, Mrs Flowerplucker..." He paused to make sure that her name had come out correctly. "... and it is in use seven nights a week as it is, what with all our different interest groups."

"Why don't we pair up with the Horticulturists?" suggested a small neat woman who, until that instant, had been a close friend of Mrs Flowerplucker.

Every eye in the hall turned towards her with a look of horror. No one felt any need to explain why this would be an utter impossibility and her suggestion was passed over.

"There is Mrs Poppinjay's Mother and Toddler Group... I mean, she's the only one on the planet with a toddler at present...," piped up an anonymous voice from the back.

"I don't think that we can discriminate against any of our user groups on the basis of numbers," judged Mr Sodbuster.

"How about meeting during the daytime?" suggested Derek.

Silence greeted this suggestion. It was not a silence of shock, still less one of horror. It was one of simple incomprehension.

"Have a meeting in this hall during the daytime?" asked the Chairman carefully.

"Yes."

The silence continued as objections were sought.

"But that would mean, Derek, not meeting in the evening..."

"It would."

Mr Sodbuster took the gamble of his entire career as Chairman of the Elysium Gardening Club.

"Yes. Why not?"

The murmur amongst the audience was audible. Members of the Elysium Gardening Club gazed at one another with the same question on everyone's mind: Would not having a meeting in the parish hall during the daytime mean the end of civilisation as they knew it? Everyone attempted to gauge the reaction of everyone else without committing themselves. Would it be proper? Would it be decent? Finally, Grace Flowerplucker spoke.

"If it is for the well-being of Little Elysium, I cannot see that there should a problem."

Indeed not, the other members began nodding to one another. If it is for the good of the community, then it would be all right, and if Mrs Flowerplucker, with her elegant beds of roses, thinks that it is quite respectable, who could gainsay it?

"Very well, then, but there is the second problem, Derek. The matter of money. We don't have any. We weren't allowed to bring any..."

"I've got an old Corelfornian silver dollar," piped up a voice from the back.

"Thank you, Mr Potstuffer, but I don't think that will help."

"I have been thinking about this," continued Derek, and there was a noticeable edging away from him. Thinking was dangerous stuff. It was the sort of thing those Horticulturists got up to.

"Money is merely a means of exchange. It works providing everyone accepts that it has value."

"You mean, of course, providing that it is backed by some tangible commodity?"

"No. It doesn't need to be. It just needs the acceptance of the community."

Nervous eyes once more glanced around the hall for signs of a rending in the fabric of the universe.

"But surely only a properly constituted authority could issue money like that, like the Emperor, ‘may the Source be with him'?"

"I thought we left Tattoo One to get away from the Emperor?" asked Potstuffer from the back.

"Oh, no, you can't blame the Emperor just because some of his officials get over-bureaucratic at times..." answered Mrs Flowerplucker.

"They shot a mate of mine for laughing at a Stormtrooper's lilac armour...!"

"And what's wrong with lilac?!"

"Even so," persisted Derek, steering the conversation back to its proper course. "Like Mrs Flowerplucker says, if all the people of Little Elysium decide to have a governing council, we can have one. Then that can be the authority that issues the money."

Mr Sodbuster was not sure that was what Mrs Flowerplucker had in fact said, but he detected a wave of approval through the hall. Mrs Flowerplucker's verges were trimmed neater than anyone else's in Little Elysium, so her views carried weight.

The following Tuesday was a momentous one in the history of Little Elysium, not only did it see the first ever daytime meeting in the parish hall, but it also witnessed the election of the Little Elysium-on-the-Planet Parish Council, with Mr Harold Sodbuster as its chairman.

"Right, now then, ladies and gentlemen," moved the newly installed Parish Council Chairman. "The second item on the agenda is the establishment of our own currency."

A hubbub of excitement echoed around the hall.

"Yes, I know, it's all very strange and wonderful, but our newly elected Council Treasurer, Mr Derek Moneypenny here, has been looking into this matter, and I am assured that it is all above board and in order."

"Who's going to make the money?" asked a voice from the back.

"No one will make it. One of our younger members brought a game with her which included some toy paper money, she has given it all to the council in exchange for the erection of a swing in her back garden. Isn't that right, Jessica? Stand up, Jessica."

The girl stood up to receive the applause of the gathering.

"It is proposed that this be the official currency of Elysium, the Toy Town Pound."

"I don't think that you can do that, can you? Create money out of nothing?" called Mark Skyspotter, the spottiest of the Starship spotters.

"Why not?" asked Mr Sodbuster. "We are just creating a medium of exchange to facilitate the trade of various goods and services."

"Yes, but, if I remember my school economics lessons, the creation of equity in the form of bank notes or anything else has either got to be backed by some tangible commodity or, if it is a mere paper transaction, has to be balanced by a debit in the form of a debt."

"Isn't Equity what actors belong to?" asked a voice from the back.

"No, equity as a financial term means a thing of substance, a tangible asset. These bits of paper, what do they represent?" explained an agitated Mark Skyspotter.

Mr Sodbuster felt himself getting out of his depth, he turned to his Treasurer.

"Derek, can you help us here?"

"Yes, Mr Chairman. What Mr Skyspotter says is quite correct, but there is the matter of perception. Put simply, we are not suggesting that this money that we are issuing is equity..."

"What?!" barked the spotty spotter. "But it has to be!"

"But I thought that you said that it could not be?" queried a puzzled Mr Sodbuster.

"But it has to be if you want it to have value!" shouted Mark.

"But we don't want it to have value, not in itself. It is, after all, just some small pieces of paper printed up with an elaborate design to avoid counterfeiting, in a range of different denominations. It has very modest inherent value, as part of a child's plaything perhaps, and one might argue that the design is rather attractive. But here on Elysium, what real use is it?"

"Lighting a fire?" suggested someone.

"That's it," agreed Derek. "Fire lighting material, wouldn't keep you warm long, mind. But instead, if we agree upon it amongst ourselves, it can be used to represent the real things of value that we do for each other. Fiat money is the technical term, I think you'll find. That's money that has value through statutory authority."

"Fiat?" asked a voice from the back. "I had a land-speeder made by them back on Tattoo One."

"It won't work!" declared a desperate Mark, angry that his knowledge could be so casually dismissed.

"Neither did my land-speeder."

"Why not?" asked Mr Sodbuster, ignoring the muttering idiot at the back.

"Because people won't accept it!" asserted Mark defiantly.

Mr Sodbuster looked about at the packed hall, full as it was with the adult population of Elysium.

"All those in favour of accepting Toy Town Pounds as the official currency of Elysium, please raise your hands."

Mrs Flowerplucker's hand rose elegantly into the air, to be followed immediately by a forest of arms throughout the hall. Most of the people there had barely understood a word of what had passed, but if it was good enough for Mr Sodbuster, Mrs Flowerplucker and Derek Moneypenny, then it was good enough for them. Even the Horticulturists were happy with it all. They might denigrate Harold Sodbuster as totally un-scientific in his gardening methods, but for sheer probity, he could not be faulted.

"Those against?"

Mark's arm shot up. He was joined by two of his spotting friends.

"Abstentions?"

There were four of these.

"Motion carried by a handsome majority, I think."

"But its still only toy money, silly money, funny money. Imperial Credit Notes are backed by the authority of the Emperor," objected Mark. "You won't catch me using it." And he stormed out of the hall.

"Nobody has to use it, if they do not want to, but it will be issued by the Parish Council. It is all safely under lock and key, or rather three locks and keys so that no one person has access to it."

"So are we going to share it out then?" called the voice from the back "How much will we each get?"

"No," continued Mr Sodbuster. "The plan is that the money will be the property of the people of Elysium as represented by their elected Parish Council and will be paid out by this Council to people who do public works. So, those who trim the verges along the roads will be paid a stipend, those who don't won't."

He glared meaningfully at the leather-clad Demons, the white-sweatered Old Tattoonians and the Starship Spotters in their anoraks.

"And there are other public works that need to be undertaken," continued Mr Sodbuster. "This parish hall has not had a lick of paint since we first put it up. We need a school for the children; a proper medical centre; the roads need mending, and we could do with a stronger bridge over the river. Are there any objections to this proposal?"

Neither hand nor voice was raised in opposition, the motion was carried, and the Toy Town Pound was a new fact of life on the planet Elysium.

The meeting broke up, but most people stayed to enjoy a nice cup of tea prepared by some of the ladies of the Gardening Club under Mrs Flowerplucker's watchful eye. They did not trust the Horticulturists to make a decent cup of tea. They probably all drank coffee, anyway.

The newly elected council gathered to enjoy their refreshment on the veranda, congratulating each other on a good day's work, and gazing across the neatly trimmed village green with pride. Out on the green, a huddle of Starship Spotters, Mark Skyspotter conspicuously absent, pointed out that there was, at that very moment, a starship heading towards them. Sure enough, up in the clear blue sky, a bright shiny object could be seen growing perceptibly bigger.

"D'you know," mused Mr Sodbuster. "I can never get used to us having only the one sun. It doesn't seem natural somehow."

"Single suns are actually more common than binary ones, though," commented Derek.

"Looks like we've visitors," muttered Mr Sodbuster. "An Imperial Patrol Ship, I shouldn't wonder."

"Well, they'll find nothing wrong with my verges!" declared Derek.

"Funny looking craft. I don't know who's designing the Imperial Space Fleet these days, but they could have done a better job, I'm sure."

"No, I don't think it is an Imperial Ship."

The strange-looking starship landed on the village green, to the mild disapproval of its self-appointed guardians. A door in the starship opened and there emerged a large slug-like creature, who oozed down the ramp surrounded by acolytes and guards of various sizes and species. The gardeners among the crowd instinctively reached for a heavy object, and then paused. How do you squash a slug that is seven feet tall?

"Greetings, people of this fair land of Elysium," was the message that emerged from his electronic chest translator. "My name is Barcla the Hoard, and I am come here to trade with you."

"Are you lost, Mr Barcla? You're a long way from Tattoo One," asked Mr Sodbuster.

"No, I am not lost. This is Elysium, is it not? Take me to your leader!"

"You could try saying ‘please'," suggested Mr Sodbuster.

He'd always regarded Barcla the Hoard as an unmannerly upstart, for all his wealth, but him being a slug it was not polite to say so.

"Hmm. Who are you?"

"Harold Sodbuster, Chairman of the Parish Council."

"And who is the highest authority on this planet?"

"Me. We've only the one parish."

"I am here to trade, Harold Sodbuster, Chairman of the Parish Council. I have droids for sale, weapons, narcotics, and all manner of useful items. What do you require?"

Mr Sodbuster thought for moment.

"Do you have any slug pellets?"

"Nooo!"

After flinching in horror, Barcla, steeled himself.

"But supposing I did. You have money to buy?"

"Oh, yes, we have money."

"Imperial Credits?"

"Oh no, we're not allowed them. We're a Restricted Planet. Actually we should not be trading off planet at all..."

"Tsch, man, I care not for Imperial regulations. I am a free trader. So you have no Imperial Credits? Would you like to borrow some?"

"What for? Like I said, we're forbidden to trade off planet."

"I was thinking of you're own internal trading. You evidently have your own thriving community here, although that meeting hall could do with a lick of paint, but you will need currency if your economy is going to develop, you know?"

"We know, and we've just sorted that all out this very afternoon."

"You have? How? If I may ask?"

"I am not sure that is any of your business."

"Do not make an enemy of me, Harold Sodbuster. So what have you done, created your own currency?"

There was no denial.

"So you have. Hmm. Well, I am sorry to have disturbed you, good people of Elysium. I bid you farewell."

Barcla the Hoard oozed back up the ramp to his ship, with his menagerie of followers. The door closed and the ship lifted off up into space.

"Well, fancy that," mused Mr Sodbuster to those around him. "Who'd have thought I would ever have found myself in conversation with a slug."

"Yes, I know what you mean," affirmed Mrs Flowerplucker. "He gave me the creeps, but you have to admit, he was very well spoken."

Next: Chapter 5

Previous: Chapter 3

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