Movements to reform money at the national level generally have a hard time. Their proponents must lobby for years or decades to gain influence over politicians and their advisors and they must present factually based and politically convincing concepts. If political reforms are realized, they often have far-reaching consequences because laws remain in force for a long time and apply to everyone, not just to those who personally choose different behaviour. In 1984, monetary reformer Helmutz Creutz made a proposal for a wide-reaching tax reform in Germany. Instead of taxing work as is currently the practice with income tax, Creutz proposed taxing above all the use of environmental resources: energy, resources, land, traffic. Taxes are the means by which governments seek to influence the dynamic of society. If work was cheaper and the use of resources and energy more expensive, society would then tend to minimize its use of resources, whilst workers would always be able to find work. Fundamental tax reform could be very effective but is not easy to implement because people do not change or give up advantages easily. In spite of powerful lobbying organizations, proposals are regularly made for reform of the tax system, including those that wish to reduce the redistribution of wealth from poor to rich, for example through higher taxes on capital. Another favorite topic is the (re)introduction of a wealth tax. The rich should not only pay taxes on their extra income but also on their wealth. The economist James Tobin proposed a transaction tax on foreign exchange transactions in order to calm the financial markets. The so-called Tobin Tax was the founding impulse for the campaigning organization Attac – the two Ts in ‘Attac’ stand for “taxation des transactions financières” (transaction tax on financial business).
If people had to pay taxes for doing business on the stock markets with currencies or shares, the hectic business would calm down because each transaction would also generate tax payments. There would also be extra tax income from speculation. (Re)regulation of banking has been intensively discussed since the beginning of the 2007/2008 financial crisis. One could introduce a segregated banking system where banks are forbidden to combine normal commercial banking business with the much riskier investment banking. It is also worth considering limiting the size of banks so banks would have to divide up or sell different areas of their business if they became too big. Behind this idea is the thought that when smaller banks get into difficulties then the arising problems are also smaller. Today many banks are “too big to fail”, that is too big to be liquidated. Their sheer size forces states to guarantee their survival. Banks should, like other businesses, be able to be declared insolvent without the risk that one bank failure bankrupts a whole economy because of collapsing payments systems. Regulation of the banking sector could also lead to a ban on ‘short selling’, the sale of ‘credit default swaps’ or the maximizing of ‘equity shares’. The fact that wealth can lead to social tensions was introduced by Karl Marx in his discussion in the book Das Kapital. Criticism of the system of ownership continually arises. The economists Gunnar Heinsohn and Otto Steiger derive the creation of money from the availability of wealth. Money and its functions were thus strongly influenced by the idea of private wealth. A particular form of wealth is land, which cannot be increased. Whereas other goods can be produced and thus increased, this only applies to land in a very limited way (for example through winning new land on the coast). Private possession of land has thus been questioned through reform proposals for decades. The commonest land reform idea is to regard land not as a private possession but as the common property of everyone. Whoever wishes to use land, leases it from society. Here there is a spectrum of ideas about the Commons, for which Elinor Ostrom received the Nobel Prize for Economics in 2009.