The only navigable roads to a just sustainable future are those paved with publicly owned banks

Review and recommendation of
Ellen Brown, (Fourth Edition, 2010, Third Millenium Press) Web of Debt: The shocking truth about our money system and how we can break free

Ellen Brown in her own words (pages 385-386): “…It is precisely because power and money corrupt that money creation needs to be done by a public body, exercised in full view and with full accountability.” … “Big business holds all the cards, because its affiliated banks have monopolized the business of issuing and lending the national money supply, a function the Constitution delegated solely to Congress.” … “These giant cartels can be brought to heel only by cutting off their source of power and returning it to its rightful sovereign owners, the people themselves.” … “And even if the politicians in charge of managing it turn out to be no less corrupt than private bankers, the money created by the government will be debt-free. Shifting the power to create money to Congress can relieve future generations of the burden of perpetual interest payments to an elite class of financial oligarchs who have advanced nothing of their own to earn it.”

Like the attorney she is, Ellen Brown carefully and methodically builds her case in successive layers (presented in 46 chapters), which she then pulls together in her concluding statement to the jury of public opinion (chapter 47). The reader can begin with her concluding chapter. Those - if any - who fully understand her conclusions, are in full possession of the relevant evidence, have no doubts about the veracity of her conclusions and the action she advocates, and can make the same case convincingly to others will not need to read the preceding 46 chapters. For the rest of us, carefully examining and weighing each of the elements of her case can provide us with knowledge we need if we are to succeed in finding a path to a just, sustainable future.

Among the layers of argument she makes to build her case, Ellen Brown meticulously counters any illusions we may have about banking and the monetary system, illusions built over centuries by the banking industry in its own self-interest, often aided by politicians and lobbyists that industry has successfully manipulated or controlled. One of these illusions is that banks lend funds they actually own or have borrowed from depositors. In reality, they lend funds they create out of thin air as an accounting entry. That money, in the form of debt, expands the money supply until it is repaid. In the meantime, the banks collect interest. Since no money has been created to cover the interest, total debt must expand. Either that or the privately owned and controlled financial system and the dependent socio-economic system of which it is a part must collapse. Short of collapse, the financial system, top-loaded with increasing debt, becomes correspondingly unstable.

There is a way out, as Ellen Brown persuasively argues, using logic and both past and current examples. An alternative to the creation of money by private banks, who undertake this for the purpose of the interest and fees they are able to collect, is the creation of all forms of money by a government of the people, by the people and for the people. Like coins and dollar bills, our governments need not charge interest to itself. And any interest charged to private borrowers then belongs to the people and can be used to support the things the people chose to provide themselves as a collective consumer, such as education, medicine, pensions and the like.

Another illusion is that the banks’ debts to depositors are backed by real bank assets. In reality, as Ellen Brown thoroughly documents, banks loan tens, hundreds and, in the case of hedge funds, even thousands of times more money than they hold at any one time, a practice that now makes private banking exceedingly unstable. The mountains of debt held by our private financial institutions are analogous to that unseen part of icebergs that lie below the surface of the water. In the case of financial institutions, only by creating and loaning increasing amounts of money at sufficiently high rates of interest are they able to remain partially above water.

For her case before a US jury, Ellen Brown primarily uses US examples. In particular, she addresses the illusion that the US Federal Reserve is part of the US Government and that its ultimate interest is that of the people of the United States. In fact, the US Federal Reserve is an agent of its largest private banks whose primary interest is in making money for the owners and managers of these banks and maintaining a financial system that abundantly rewards these owners and managers. It might be closer to the truth to say that the US government is an agent of the US financial industry - until and unless the American people make good on the promise of a government of the people, by the people and for the people.

But the greatest illusion of all those corrected by Ellen Brown is the illusion that private banking is the only alternative, that the rest of us are dependent on maintaining a private banking system dominated by global financial corporations. Her arguments to the contrary draw not only on logic but include a history of banking in the United States that traces it through the American Revolution to the present day. Revealed are the many episodes in US history in which public banks were advanced as a preferred alternative to private ones, including the establishment of public banks during the fight to free the US colonies from England and to support the successful efforts of the Federal Government to free the slaves and maintain the United States. Also included is an account of the renewed effort by the populist movements of the latter 19th and early 20th Century to restore public sovereignty over the creation of money. She also gives due attention to current examples of public banks in many parts of the world, including one in the United States, namely, the Bank of North Dakota.

Readers of this review from other parts of the world are encouraged, after reading Ellen Brown’s arguments and historical evidence, to find out more about the history and practice of banking in their own countries. For example, a Google search for information on public banking in Canada turned up, among other sources of information, an article by Ellen Brown (21 January, 2011), “Funding public health care with a publicly-owned bank: How Canada did it” published at Included is the following eloquent statement made in 1938 by former Canadian Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King, which retains all of its significance and meaning in today‘s financial climate:

"Until the control of the issue of currency and credit is restored to government and recognized as its most conspicuous and sacred responsibility, all talk of the sovereignty of Parliament and of democracy is idle and futile. Once a nation parts with the control of its currency and credit, it matters not who makes that nation’s laws. Usury, once in control, will wreck any nation."

Canadians are urged to read the entirety of this brief article by Ellen Brown for an inspiring account of what was accomplished by Canada when it used the Bank of Canada to initiate a medical care system and public projects that remain a vital part of the legacy of all Canadians. It also relates the tragic change in banking policy that resulted from the victory of neoliberal financial theory, which should be held totally responsible for the undermining of the Canadian federal and provincial governments and their ability to maintain and build upon Canada’s past accomplishments.

But rather than play the blame game, Canadians and all peoples have before us the alternative of establishing genuine popular sovereignty over the financial system, so that it serves our aim of a just, sustainable future.

- Review by Charles Posa McFadden, April 2012


This website was launched September 1, 2010 in support of a green social democratic alternative to neoliberal capitalist policy and practice. The primary result is a work by Charles and Karen McFadden of seven chapters, grouped under the title, Towards a Green Social Democratic Alternative to Capitalism available here in pdf and html formats.

Below under the heading What’s New can be found the most recent materials posted on this website, including opinion pieces, book reviews, articles and selections from the 2017 edition of the main work.  For the interest of new and returning visitors, new materials will be included quarterly.

What's New


Authors' Preface

1.6 The epochal nature of the period we are entering

6.0 The socialism we need against the "socialism" of the 20th century

6.8 Additional concerns about 20th century variants of "socialism"

6.9 The people united!

7.1 Policy alternatives and political movements to advance them


Charles and Karen McFadden, Is revolutionary transformation on the agenda

Charles and Karen McFaddenHumanity on the Brink

Charles and Karen McFaddenMovements of Resistance to Movements for System Change

Charles McFaddenTranslating Green Principles into Education Policy and Practice

Charles and Karen McFadden, The Role of Revolutionaries in the Labor Movement


Charles and Karen McFadden, “The Shape of Water” as an Antidote to the Age of Trump 

Charles McFadden, Decolonizing the U.S. & Canada: The People United for a More Just Sustainable Future

Karen and Charles McFaddenCan emergent early 21st century neo-fascism be defeated without coming to grips with late 20th century restructuring of capitalism into a global system

Karen and Charles McFaddenA Dominant Capitalism or a Sustainable Environment? Why we can't have both.


William I. RobinsonThe Crisis of Global Capitalism and Trump's March to War

William I. RobinsonTrumpism, 21st Century Fascism, and the Dictatorship of the Transnational Capitalist Class


George HewisonWINNIPEG 1919 & THE COLD WAR

George HewisonArt Manuel - "Unsettling Canada

George HewisonThe NDP and LEAP


Albert Einstein, David Swanson, Jill Stein, Chris Hedges, William I. Robinson, and others Selected articles for Winter 2018



1.7 The dynamics of capitalism as a system and the limits of single issue reforms

2.11 The economy in transition towards a new deal for labor and the community

3.1 The challenge of a moribund economic system

3.7 Public banking: A cornerstone of a green social democracy

4.7 Economics and culture

6.5 Using the non-market economy as an opportunity to begin moving beyond capitalism


1.6 The epochal nature of the period we are entering

2.0 Theoretical Perspective: Defining Green Social Democracy

2.5. Socialism and green social democracy in historical materialist theory

4.3 Culture in historical perspective

5.1 Contrasting a green social democratic world with the currently prevailing, but challenged neo-liberal one

6.2 Socialism and capitalism as coexisting social systems


2.11 The economy in transition towards a new deal for labor and the community

5.7 Defeating neo-liberal capitalism: The role of social movements

7.3 Justice: Creating a just society, based on the right of all to a dignified, secure existence

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Creative Commons License: Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) applies to all work posted on this website except that which appears with authors whose last name is other than McFadden, in which case standard copyright should be assumed to apply.