Silvio Gesell

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Silvio Gesell

Johann Silvio Gesell (born March 17, 1862 in Sankt Vith , Rhine Province ; † March 11, 1930 in the fruit growing cooperative Eden near Oranienburg ) was a German-Argentinian businessman, financial theorist, social reformer and founder of free economics . He was in the Munich Soviet Republic in 1919 at the suggestion of Erich Mühsam and Gustav Landaueractive as finance minister. After his ideas had only been published and discussed in the manageable circle of his supporters for decades, Gesell came back into the public eye again at the turn of the millennium. Reasons for this include the discussions about the so-called regional and crypto currencies as well as the low interest rate policies of various central banks.


Silvio Gesell as a toddler (center) with mother and siblings
Ernst Gesell, Silvio's father (1819–1895)
Postcard from Silvio Gesell around 1920. Among other things, he writes: "The big house was built by my great-grandfather [...]", referring to the St. Vither master builder Josef Lentz.
First page of the sales catalog of Gesell, Buenos Aires
The company headquarters, the "Casa Gesell", in Buenos Aires
Silvio Gesell's grave in the Oranienburg city cemetery (coordinates: 52 ° 44 ′ 52.1 ″  N , 13 ° 13 ′ 35.4 ″  E )

Silvio Jean Gesell was the son of Ernst and Mathilde Gesell and the seventh of nine children. His mother was the daughter of the couple Jeanette and Nicolas Joseph Talbots. The grandmother Jeanette, to whom Gesell's middle name refers, was a daughter of the famous St. Vither master builder Josef Lentz . Before her marriage, she worked in Verviers and Andenne as a tutor to Don Carlos, Prince of Capua and brother of Francis II , King of the Two Sicilies . Ernst Gesell, Silvio Gesell's father, was a secretary of the then Prussian district of Malmedy and came from Aachen . The house where he was born is located at St. Vither Rathausstrasse 81. The building has a memorial plaque.

After attending the community school in Sankt Vith, Gesell switched to the grammar school in Malmedy. He had to make a living from an early age, so he decided not to study and joined the Deutsche Reichspost . However, the civil service career was not his. He decided to learn the trade of a businessman from his older brothers in Berlin. He then lived for two years as a correspondent in Málaga (Spain). Reluctantly, he returned to Berlin to do military service. He then worked as a commercial clerk in Braunschweig and Hamburg.

In 1887 Gesell went to Buenos Aires (Argentina), where he started his own business and opened a branch of the Berlin business. The severe economic crises in the country, which strongly influenced his business activities, made him think about the structural problems of the monetary system. In 1891 Gesell published his first monetary theoretical work: The Reformation of Coin Management as a Bridge to the Social State . It was followed by Nervus rerum and The Nationalization of Money . After handing over his Argentine business to his brother in 1890, he returned to Europe in 1892.

After a short stopover in Germany, Gesell settled in Les Hauts-Geneveys in the canton of Neuchâtel in Switzerland, where he had acquired a farm. In addition to his work in agriculture, he continued to devote himself to economic studies and writing. The magazine Die Geld- und Bodenreform , which he founded in 1900, was not a great success; it had to be stopped again in 1903 for financial reasons.

From 1907 to 1911 Gesell lived in Argentina again. He then moved to Germany and chose the vegetarian-oriented fruit growing cooperative Eden in Oranienburg north of Berlin , which Franz Oppenheimer co-founded , as his place of residence . Here he founded the magazine Der Physiokrat together with Georg Blumenthal . In March 1916, during the First World War , further publication was forbidden by the war censors. Gesell left Germany and went back to his farm in Switzerland. Through his business he had acquired a certain fortune, with which he was able to dispose in such a way that crises did not harm him to any great extent. He was also supported by friends, especially Paul Klemm in Transylvania / Romania, a wealthy timber manufacturer who occasionally took over the printing costs for Gesell's publications.

In April 1919 Ernst Niekisch called Gesell to the revolutionary government of the Munich Soviet Republic in Munich. The latter initially offered him a seat on the so-called Socialization Commission and appointed him - after a suggestion by Erich Mühsam and Gustav Landauer - a short time later as their “People's Commissioner for Finances” based in Munich. During this time Gesell worked with the law professor Karl Polenske from the University of Greifswald and with the Swiss doctor and mathematician Theophil Christen . However, his term of office lasted only seven days. After the bloody end of the Soviet Republic, Gesell was imprisoned. There he shared the cell with the poet Gusto Gräser , whose revolutionary pamphlet he financed. After several months in prison, he was acquitted in July 1919 in a high treason trial before a court in Munich for his self-defense speech. The legal costs were borne by the state treasury. However, he was expelled from Bavaria along with grasses and others. Immediately after his acquittal, Gesell and his supporters resumed advertising for his reform ideas.

Because of his participation in the Munich Soviet Republic, the Swiss authorities refused to allow him to return to his farm as an "undesirable foreigner". As a result, Gesell first moved to Rehbrücke near Berlin, and later back to Oranienburg -Eden. In 1924 there was another stay in Argentina. From 1927 he lived again in Eden, where he succumbed to pneumonia on March 11, 1930 and was buried a few days later in a small circle at the Oranienburg city cemetery. Bertha Heimberg gave the funeral oration . Silvio Gesell was married to Anna, b. Böttger and had four children with her. From his connection with Jenny Blumenthal , geb. Führer, emerged in 1915 by Hans-Joachim Führer . Gesell had other relationships with Wanda Tomys and Grete Siermann.

Free Economics

Gesell presented his theory in his book "The natural economic order through open land and free money", which was self-published in 1916. To this day, this work is the essential basis of free economics . Silvio Gesell represented a cosmopolitan attitude. He is convinced that the earth should belong to all people equally, regardless of race, gender, class, wealth, religion, age or ability. National borders should become superfluous.

Gesell based his economic considerations on the self-interest of people as a healthy, natural drive that allows them to pursue their needs and to be economically active. An economic order must also do justice to this fact, otherwise it would be doomed to failure. That is why Gesell called the economic system he designed "natural". With this attitude he consciously opposed Karl Marx , who called for a change in social conditions.

“The Marxist goal cannot be achieved either by force or by law. The nature of man is directed against this goal, rears against it. "

- Silvio Gesell: Second memorandum for the German trade unions for use in their actions against capitalism, 1922

Taking account of self-interest, Gesell advocated free, fair competition with equal opportunities for all. For him, this included the dismantling of all inherited and legal privileges. Everyone should only use their personal abilities, so that they can also find their livelihood. In the “natural economic order” he strives for, free competition would justly secure the highest income for the most talented, without being falsified by interest and rent. Likewise, it would give the less able a sufficient livelihood because they would not have to pay taxes on interest and rent. A fair balance between rich and poor would be possible. In addition, there are enough funds available to support those in need, because the increased average income allows everyone to spend what they need for them.

Observations in Argentina

After the overthrow of the dictator Juan Manuel de Rosas , a liberal constitution came into force in 1853, which also opened the country to immigrants. The economy began to flourish and sheep's wool became the most important export item. A downturn in the world economy in the mid-1870s and the introduction of a gold-backed currency led to an economic crisis around 1890. The export-oriented economy was shackled by the gold cover regulations. The typical signs of it developed deflationary downward spiral: Decreasing money supply → Falling wages → hoarding (decline in consumption) → decline in salescorporate bankruptciesmass layoffsmass unemployment .

The attempt to counteract the falling prices and the increasing monetary value by expanding the money supply failed because people were also hoarding the new money. The range of goods remained excessive, and prices quickly fell back to the old level. Long-term price increases would have made saving less attractive, thereby driving people to more consumption , and stimulating the domestic economy again.

Money and free money

The analysis of the effects that the economic crises in Argentina had on his own business activities led Gesell to his monetary policy theses. In doing so, he relies, among other things, on Pierre-Joseph Proudhon's idea of ​​a “révolution par le crédit”: Proudhon had intended to bring about the revolution he was striving for by abolishing credit and granting interest-free loans. According to Gesell's thesis, a constant speed of circulation of money is of great importance for a crisis-free economy. Gesell demanded that money should only serve the economy as a medium of exchange , but not paralyze it as a means of hoarding. Since money, in contrast to goods and human labor, neither “rusts” nor “spoils”, a money owner can, according to Gesell's opinion, hold back his money without any disadvantage, ie “hoard” it. He could wait until the goods were cheap for him or the interest was high enough. With this speculative postponement of his desire to consume, he disrupts the economic cycle . Traders would be forced to lower their prices . As a result, they would have to cover their costs with loans . According to Gesell's ideas, the money owner can reward this need with interest, an income for which he does not provide any service. He lends the interest income again, so that his interest income increases constantly ( accumulation ). According to Gesell, wealth would be accumulated where it was not needed. In return, the working population would be deprived of the full income due to them.

By the market superiority of the money owner Gesell saw the free play of forces between seller and buyer fundamentally disturbed. From this he drew the conclusion that money should correspond in its essence to nature and natural things should be modeled. Money in the hands of a money owner, like manpower and goods , must lose value over time; then it would no longer have a dominant position in the market. Money would be subject to constant pressure to pass it on. Every money owner will not withhold his money for too long, but buy goods or services with it, settle current bills or lend it without interest, in order to avoid depreciation. So money works as a servant of man and not as his ruler.

Gesell called this money " free money ". It is also referred to as circulation secured money or - with the term coined by Otto Heyn - called Schwundgeld , a term that is sometimes used derogatory by critics. The issue of the free money should be reserved for the state, which has to set up a currency office for this purpose. If there is a risk of inflation, the Monetary Office should collect free money; if there is a risk of deflation, it should issue it. This would overcome the harmful property of money, namely that it can be hoarded risk-free for money owners. In order to realize his idea, he suggested switching from coins, which were still prevalent at the time, to paper money , on which the necessary notes about the decrease in value or expiry of a banknote can be made. Because of its depreciation, free money would not be hoarded even with falling prices ( deflation ) and low interest rates. Gesell believed that this would lead to a strong and lasting supply of capital for the economy. He wanted to "drown the interest in a sea of ​​capital", as he put it. Through the secure circulation, free money would save the economy from crises and at the same time solve the social question through the lowering of the general interest level .

At the end of the First World War , Gesell, on the basis of his business cycle theory, predicted an even more terrible war if the interest rate economy were to continue:

"Despite the holy promise of the peoples to outlaw war for all time, despite the shouts of millions:" Never again war! ", Against all hopes for a bright future, I have to say: if today's monetary system, the interest economy, will be maintained, I dare to say today that it will not be 25 years before we face a new, even more terrible war! "

Monetary value, money supply and money circulation

The primary goal of Gesell was an economy without disruptive economic fluctuations and a just social order. In view of this, Silvio Gesell also called for a stable monetary value, combined with free exchange rates and the removal of the gold cover . This means the removal of the money supply from the gold reserves of the central banks as well as the lifting of their obligation to redeem money for gold.

Only through the constant circulation of money secured by free money will it be possible to control the amount of money in such a way that its purchasing power and thus prices remain stable . The central bank, in Germany at that time the Reichsbank , should be deprived of the right to issue banknotes and transferred to an independent currency office . To control the amount of money, he only needed a printing press to print banknotes when there was a lack of money and an oven to burn them when there was a surplus of money. There would be no more massive fluctuations in the economy and no more disruptive deflations and inflations . According to Gesell, social unrest caused by high unemployment would also be permanently eliminated. His tax system was based on the time factor economy .

In addition to flexible exchange rates , Gesell also proposed the formation of an international payment association (International Valuta Association, IVA) and the introduction of an international currency with circulation protection. He wanted to make international payment transactions easier and independent of existing national currencies .

Original interest

Gesell claimed to have found an interest component underlying all interest claims, which he called the original interest , an added value of money . Gesell justified the original interest with the superiority of money over labor and goods. It is an inevitable by-product of an economy that uses money. It is the original interest that provides the owner of the money as a lender ( creditor ) with a share of the income from work of his borrower ( debtor ) and his customers that accrues without performance and thus leads to great social injustice . Under the original interest rate, no interest rate has ever fallen for centuries. He gave his height at two to three percent.

Gesell saw all interest claims as the sum of the original interest , inflation adjustment and risk component . In addition, as long as the economy grows, there is a production- related share of growth that he called loan interest on property . Finally, the bank demands an agent fee for credit brokerage . Interest is thus made up of five parts, even if they are not negotiated individually in practice.

If the superiority of money in the market could be eliminated by the introduction of free money, then, according to Gesell, the original interest would decrease to zero and disappear from all types of interest. Because free money could largely overcome inflation and deflation at the same time, compensating for inflation in the interest rate would automatically be omitted. Furthermore, a more stable economic development would result in lower credit risks, so that the risk component in the interest rate would also decrease. Without economic growth, the share of growth would ultimately cease to exist, so that one could speak of zero interest rates. The shrinking of the interest rate leads to a significant general relief of the economy and the population of a country from interest costs. On the other hand, it would no longer be possible to accumulate wealth acquired without performance from interest income. Instead, there would be a fundamentally greater prosperity for the working population and a far-reaching solution to the social question.

By explaining the interest problem from the original interest rate as a phenomenon of a money economy, Silvio Gesell opposed Karl Marx , who explained interest from the production relationships of the economy. Gesell, on the other hand, believed that the loan interest could be made to disappear completely after the introduction of the free money, because ultimately the supply of loans would exceed the demand for it and the loan interest would thus become zero.

Land reform

Gesell criticized the possibility of receiving income without performance in the land law, because the landowners demand land rent from their tenants . In addition, big money owners, whose income from interest had been reduced after the introduction of free money, would switch to buying up land. This would cause land prices to climb to immeasurable heights, much to the detriment of everyone else, because everyone is dependent on land to live and work.

In order to remedy this situation as well, Gesell asked for the land to be transferred to public ownership for compensation, but at the same time to allow its previous owners to continue to use it in return for a recurring tax on use to the state. The buildings and other facilities erected on it, however, remained private property. In this way the rent on land would flow to the general public. Trade and speculation in land would be impossible. The amount of the fee should be determined separately for each property in a highest bidding process and adjusted from time to time to changed circumstances. Gesell called such soil “ open land ”.

In these considerations, Gesell assumed that soil is a product of nature and not of humans. The earth should belong to all people equally. That is why there was no private property for Gesell an Boden, in contrast to the existing facilities. Land ownership should belong to the state alone.

Gesell wanted to have the income of the state from the current land use taxes distributed in full to the mothers as a mother's pension according to the number of their children. Gesell believed that the value of the land, and thus the land rent, rose as the number of inhabitants of a country increased and the demand for land increased with it. With the mother's pension, Gesell pursued the goal of making women economically independent from men so that they married a man out of love and not for the sake of care.

Together with the elimination of the original interest, the elimination of the land rent should secure the workers the right to the full income from work .


Gesell (center) in conversation with Fritz Schwarz (left) and Werner Zimmermann (right)

In 1909 Georg Blumenthal created the first platform for the dissemination of Silvio Gesell's teachings with the Association for Physiocratic Politics . In the following years a publishing house was established and in 1913 the first magazine was created. Within the movement set in motion by Blumenthal, differences of opinion soon arose, which led to the establishment of further organizations. Mention should be made here of the Paul Klüpfels Free Land Free Money Bund and the Bund für Freiwirtschaft initiated by Helmut Haacke . According to Günter Bartsch , “two basic currents ” fought with one another in the early days of free-economic organizations, anarcholiberalism and state socialism . The Swiss life reformer Werner Zimmermann tried, more or less unsuccessfully, a synthesis, which he called Free Socialism . Gesell wanted to win the diverging movement for the establishment of a socialist united front , but only a loose amalgamation of the various organizations in the free trade union came about . When Silvio Gesell entered the government of the Munich Soviet Republic , most of his supporters saw this as a mistake, both on one side and on the other.

From the Soviet Republic in 1919 to Gesell's death

Erich Mühsam / Gustav Landauer

The fact that Gesell was appointed finance minister of the Munich Soviet Republic was due, among other things, to a joint proposal by Gustav Landauer and Erich Mühsams . In support of this, the latter wrote in his personal report on the revolutionary events in Munich that Silvio Gesell's "extensive knowledge in the field of money" and his "pure anarchist sentiments" were known to them. In addition, “the practice of his free money theory with simultaneous nationalization of the banks” seemed to them to be a particularly effective means of “making exploitation and usury at an accelerated rate impossible.” In his “obituary”, which appeared shortly after Gesell's death, he said With difficulty as follows: “The time of revolutionary realization will have to ask the dead of much that the time of dogmatic unteachability has sinned against the living and thus at the same time against himself. The path of humanity to a decent community will be stamped with a load of earth from Silvio Gesell's garden. ”Landauer was impressed by Gesell's free money theory very early on. He saw in him a student of Proudhon . In his appeal to socialism , published in 1911, it says: “In the free exchange economy, money must become the same as all other commodities, from which it differs in essence today, and yet be a general medium of exchange. The suggestions made by Silvio Gesell are very valuable. [...] He is one of the very few who have learned from Proudhon, recognize his greatness and, following on from him, have come to think independently. "

Silvio Gesell and Gottfried Feder

The differences between Gesell and Feder's concepts were also perceived in the National Socialist movement (title page of an Austrian Nazi publication from 1921)

The historian Udo Kissenkoetter refers to events of the anti - Semitic German Socialist Party (DSP) in the 1920s, at which both Gottfried Feder and Silvio Gesell appeared as main speakers and competitors. The supporters of Gesell and Feders within the DSP fought for an economic program in many meetings, for example at the second party congress in August 1920 in Leipzig. Through this discourse in “early fascist circles”, both Gesell's plans to steer the economy and Feder's idea of ​​the creation of money by the state became common knowledge. At a NSDAP party congress in Linz in August 1921 it was finally decided that Gottfried Feder's economic principles should be accepted against the teachings of Silvio Gesell.

It is controversial whether the demand for “ breaking the bondage ”, one of the central points in the 25-point program of the NSDAP , goes back to Gesell's free economics. The publicist Carl Amery takes the view that Gesell gave the National Socialist economic theorist Gottfried Feder the ideas for his slogan of “breaking interest bondage” that Feder was “inspired” by Gesell. The historians Avraham Barkai and Hermann Weiß also assume that the National Socialist monetary theorist Gottfried Feder was directly inspired by Gesell. Werner Onken , Hans-Joachim Werner, Gerhard Senft and Hans-Werner Holub deny this. The commonality between Gesell and Feder was limited to both criticism of interest; their approaches would have been diametrically different. Holub also refers to an article by Feders in the Völkischer Beobachter of October 27, 1923, in which he writes that the complete rejection and scientific settlement of Gesell's "heresy" could be viewed as common property of National Socialism.

From 1930 to the end of the 20th century

Advertisement for a radio device (1931) with the offer to accept WÄRA as a means of payment

Outdoor experiments

Initiated by the Gesell supporters Hans Timm and Helmut Rödiger occurred during the Great Depression at various locations in Germany and Austria for campaigns with free money. In Schwanenkirchen it was the mining engineer Max Hebecker who bought a closed mine in 1929 and then reopened it with free money. In Wörgl , Austria , Mayor Michael Unterguggenberger - inspired by Silvio Gesell - issued secure employment confirmation slips . The experiment was a great success and was hailed as the miracle of Wörgl .

time of the nationalsocialism

After Gesell's death, a number of his followers tried to spread Gesell's ideas within the NSDAP . Among them were Wilhelm Radecke , Theodor Benn and the economic expert Franz Hochstetter . Radecke, who joined the NSDAP in 1931, had access to the upper circles of the party through his professional position as well as through his old school friend Heinrich Himmler , to whom he submitted the Society's economic program orally and in writing. Goebbels is said to have been enthusiastic. According to the Freiwirtschaftliche Presse in its 1/1934 issue, he asked Wilhelm Radecke to seek a conversation with Hitler and to convince him "as you convinced me." Joseph Goebbels 'diaries can be found in Joseph Goebbels' diaries from 29. August 1931 several positive entries on the free economy. In 1932 Radecke's brochure Der Weg aus der Not was published . In it he dealt sharply with Gottfried Feder. His program includes a “corporate, absolutely self-sufficient economic order” which is comparable to the Confucian one and which, if implemented in Germany, would bring about inner-Asian conditions. While this work and the proposals represented in it met with a positive response in some parts of the NSDAP (including Ernst Röhm , Heinrich Himmler and probably also Rudolf Heß ), it was rejected in other parts (including Hermann Göring ). Wilhelm Kube was even able to exclude Radecke from the party . The reason was his public criticism of Gottfried Feder.

Initially, the Gesell supporters only formed a loose group among the NSDAP members. On May 1, 1933, on the basis of an initiative by Wilhelm Radecke, the Rolandbund , a "national federation to secure the market sovereignty of the Reich" was founded. The magazine Schule der Freiheit (SdF) published by Otto Lautenbach also propagated Gesell's ideas. It was initially published by Rudolf-Zitzmann-Verlag as a monthly and from July 1934 as a weekly magazine. While all free trade press organs ceased to appear or were banned between 1933 and 1934, the SdF survived until 1943. With it, however, Silvio Gesell's positions largely faded into the background. Articles by Gustav Cassel , John Maynard Keynes and Irving Fishers were published for this purpose . Otherwise, the magazine paid homage to the so-called National Revolution , which had liquidated the empire of pseudo freedoms established in November 1918. Now it is a matter of "shaping a new world for generations." Nobody should stand aside, "least of all a Freiwirt."

International awareness

The finance minister and later prime minister Édouard Daladier traveled to Wörgl from France . In the USA, the economist Irving Fisher suggested to the American government - albeit in vain - that they introduce a Wörgl-like money called Stamp Scrip . Irving Fisher described himself as "a humble student of the Gesell merchant" and took the view that the free money proposed by Gesell would, if used correctly, be able to overcome the US economic crisis of the 1930s .

The British John Maynard Keynes, who is one of the most important economists of the 20th century, devoted a whole chapter in his book General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money to Silvio Gesell and his free economics. There he first introduced Gesell as a “strange” but “wrongly overlooked prophet”, then dealt critically above all with Gesell's interest theory and summed up “that the future will learn more from Gesell's spirit than from that of Marx. “The“ thought behind the stamp money ”is - according to Keynes -“ healthy ”.

After 1945

In 1950 the Radical Social Freedom Party (RSF), the Social Freedom Party (SFP) and the Free Social Party (FSP) merged. This resulted in the Free Social Union (FSU) and later the Human Economy Party , which represents Gesell's arguments in the party program.

21st century

Silvio Gesell's ideas, which in the second half of the 20th century were only discussed in the circles of his followers, are currently experiencing a “renaissance” - for example Christoph Scherrer 2012. With the start of the global economic crisis in 2009 , the idea of ​​circulating money was taken up again in various places. ECB -Direktoriumsmitglied Benoît Cœuré declared on March 9, 2014 the Money Market Contact Group of the ECB in a speech that the idea of negative interest rates or the "Taxation of money" on Silvio Gesell go back.

The 2015 Greek financial crisis also prompted experts, including the British economic historian and Keynes biographer Robert Skidelsky , to point out Gesell's free money as a possible solution. Stanley Fischer , Vice President of the US Federal Reserve , mentioned Silvio Gesell as one of the masterminds of negative interest rates in his speech Monetary Policy, Financial Stability, and the Zero Lower Bound on January 3, 2016.

Silvio Gesell's free money is also discussed in connection with the cryptocurrencies ( e.g. Bitcoin ) that have existed since 2009 . Ordinary bitcoins, however, are not free money; they lack the circulation protection , which is not provided for in the Bitcoin system. The economist Beate Sauer writes: [A circulation protection] "could only be implemented through a majority decision in the overall system, since the blockchain technology would have to be redesigned accordingly." Since December 2012, "[...] the Freicoin cryptocurrency that uses a variant of the original Bitcoin algorithm. This is possible because Bitcoin technology is open source software that everyone has and that everyone can change according to their own ideas. ”In practice, however, the FRC could not prevail. The crypto magazine: "This is sometimes due to the fact that the potential buyers have not accepted the idea - most people are satisfied with a capitalist system and are looking for investment opportunities with which their money can be increased."

Urs Egger's feature film Das Wunder von Wörgl was made in Austria in 2018 . It tells the story of the above-mentioned Schwundgeld experiment, which was carried out under the direction of the then Mayor of Wörgl , Michael Unterguggenberger . The award-winning film and its documentation were broadcast for the first time on December 1, 2018 on SRF , on December 8, 2018 on ORF and on April 23, 2019 on Bayerischer Rundfunk . The Franco-German broadcaster Arte showed the film for the first time on April 16, 2019.

Allegations of anti-Semitism and social Darwinism

Regardless of its importance for the teaching of the free economy, Gesell is repeatedly associated with racism , anti-Semitism , eugenics and social Darwinism . Such connections are nourished by individual idioms and stereotypes in Gesell's writings. He wrote, for example, of the “high breeding of the human race”, the “right of discipline of women” or hoped for a “redemption from all the inferior with which the malpractice guided for thousands of years of money and privilege has burdened mankind”.

After Werner Onken , Gesell oriented himself not only to Charles Darwin but also to Max Stirner and Friedrich Nietzsche . Although he used social Darwinian terms in his writings , he was concerned with humanity as a whole and not with the rule of a people or race at the expense of others. Many of Gesell's statements can only be understood from the respective time and in comparison with contemporary texts.

The social philosopher Johannes Heinrichs saw Gesell “quite something like a social Darwinism”. He would also defend the core tenets of Manchester capitalism : the "natural selection of the most capable" and the resulting "economic superiority of the fittest". The sociologist Arno Klönne said in a radio lecture: “Silvio Gesell was not an anti-Semite and he was not a nationalist or a German imperialist. His political view of the world was based on equality between peoples, the dismantling of national borders, free trade and peace. In a certain sense, however, he was a Social Darwinist. "

The Marxist economist Elmar Altvater believes that Gesell's monetary and land reform “is a structural anti-Semitism ”. The “free economic concept” is “compatible with racist and anti-Semitic positions”. This criticism was rejected by Werner Onken. Onken admits that “Silvio Gesell's criticism of capitalism was not free from anti-Semitic resentments only in its beginnings”. For example, he regretted that he “once again associated usury with the Jews”. Onken sums up that “Gesell's criticism of the capitalist monetary system was not directed against the Jews”. With two exceptions, Gesell's works are rather characterized by “a respectful attitude towards Jews”.


The Argentine seaside resort Villa Gesell on the Atlantic Ocean is named after Silvio Gesell . It was founded by his son Carlos north of Mar del Plata and has over 20,000 permanent residents. Street names are reminiscent of the founder of free economics both in his place of birth St. Vith (Belgium) and in Wörgl (Austria), the city of the WÄRA experiment. The Silvio Gesell conference center in Wuppertal-Neviges also refers to him.


Gesell published a wealth of brochures, books, articles and lectures in German and Spanish. He gained his knowledge from his experiences and observations as a businessman, supplemented by studying economic literature ( Pierre-Joseph Proudhon , Karl Marx , Henry George and others). Accordingly, he wrote clearly and practically. His main work The natural economic order through free land and free money (1916) experienced ten editions and numerous translations.

Complete edition

  • Collected Works. 18 volumes and register volume. Gauke Verlag for Social Economy, Kiel 2000


Title page of the publication: The dismantling of the state [...] (1919)
  • The reformation of coinage as a bridge to the social state. Self-published, Buenos Aires 1891
  • Rerum nerve. Self-published, Buenos Aires 1891
  • The nationalization of money. Self-published, Buenos Aires 1892
  • El Sistema Monetario Argentino. Sus Ventajas y su Perfeccionamento. Self-published, Buenos Aires 1893
  • The adaptation of money and its management to the needs of modern transport. Herpig & Stieveken, Buenos Aires 1897
  • La Cuestion Monetaria Argentina. Buenos Aires 1898
  • The Argentine Money Economy and Its Lessons. 1900
  • The monopoly of the Swiss National Bank and the limits on spending money in the event that the free gold coinage is blocked. KJ Wyss, Bern 1901
  • The realization of the right to full income from work through monetary and land reform. Self-published, Les Hauts Geneveys / Leipzig 1906
  • The new doctrine of money and interest. Physiocratic Publishing House, Berlin / Leipzig 1911
  • The natural economic order through free land and free money. Self-published, Les Hauts Geneveys 1916; 9th edition published by Karl Walker : Rudolf Zitzmann Verlag, Lauf 1949 ( PDF; 1.4 MB )
  • Gold or peace? Lecture given in Bern on April 28, 1916. Self-published, Les Hauts Geneveys 1916
  • Freiland, the iron demand for peace. Lecture given at the World Peace Federation in Zurich on July 5, 1917 in Zurich. Self-published, Les Hauts Geneveys 1917
  • The dismantling of the state after the introduction of popular rule. Memorandum to the national councils assembled in Weimar. Publishing house of the Freiland-Freileld-Bund, Berlin-Steglitz 1919
  • The legal safeguarding of the purchasing power of money through the absolute currency. Memorandum for a submission to the National Assembly. Self-published, Berlin / Weimar 1919
  • The Reich Currency Office. Economic, political and financial preparation for its establishment. Freiland-Freileldverlag, Rehbrücke 1920
  • International Value Date Association (IVA). Prerequisite for world free trade - the only possible economic policy for a divided Germany. Freiwirtschaftlicher Verlag, Sontra 1920
  • The free economy in court. With an introduction by Richard Hoffmann. Freiland-Freileld-Verlag, Erfurt / Bern 1920
  • To the German people! Rally of the Free Economic Congress in Hanover. Freiland-Freileld-Verlag, Erfurt 1921
  • German proposals for the re-establishment of the League of Nations and the revision of the Versailles Treaty. Public lecture, held in the auditorium of the Gymnasium in Barmen on December 20, 1920. Verlag des Freiland-Freileld-Bund, Barmen-Elberfeld 1921
  • Science and the doctrine of free-field free money. Criticism and reply. Published without a statement of responsibility. Erfurt / Berlin 1921
  • Memorandum for the trade unions to use in their actions on the question of currency, value date and reparations. Self-published, Berlin-Rehbrücke 1922
  • Exploitation, its causes and how to combat it. Second memorandum for the German trade unions for use in their actions against capitalism. Lecture given at the Socialist Association for Mutual Further Education in Dresden on May 8, 1922. Self-published, Berlin-Rehbrücke 1922
  • The dictatorship in need. Collective call for the statesmen of Germany. Freiland-Freileld-Verlag, Erfurt 1922
  • The mirage of the foreign loan and a new proposal on the reparations problem. A global economic view, a warning against illusions and a positive proposal for a solution. Freiwirtschaftlicher Verlag, Erfurt 1922
  • under the pseudonym Juan Acratillo: The perplexed Social Democrat . 1922 ( PDF )
  • The rise of the west. Lecture given at Pentecost 1923 in Basel at the 1st International Free Land Congress. Freiland-Freileld-Verlag, Berlin / Bern, 1923.
  • with Hans Bernoulli and Fritz Roth: The problem of the basic pension. Introductory thoughts for a scientific clarification. Self-published by the Swiss Free Trade Association, Bern 1925
  • General expropriation in the light of physiocratic goals. Self-published, Potsdam 1926
  • The dismantled state. Life and goings-on in a lawless and immoral high-striving culture people. A. Burmeister Verlag, Berlin-Friedenau 1927
  • Wealth and poverty do not belong in an orderly state. Selection of works for the 150th birthday, compiled by Werner Onken. Verlag für Sozialökonomie, Kiel 2011, ISBN 978-3-87998-462-6


  • Oskar Stillich : Free money. A criticism . Industriebeamten-Verlag, Berlin 1923
  • Willi Bethge: Silvio Gesell's free money theory. Diss. Rer. oec. Univ. Rostock 1927, Dünnhaupt, Köthen 1927.
  • B. Uhlemayr: Silvio Gesell. Nuremberg 1931
  • Arminius: Hitler or Gesell? A psychological argument. In: Scientific series of the Freiwirtschaftliche Zeitung. No. 20, Erfurt 1932
  • Heinrich Färber : The heresy of Silvio Gesells. 1932, 2nd edition Graz 1996, ISBN 3-901805-03-6 .
  • Rolf Engert : Silvio Gesell as a person. Leipzig 1933
  • Werner Schmid: Silvio Gesell. The life story of a pioneer. Bern 1954
  • Hans Blüher , Werner Schmid u. a .: Silvio Gesell - contemporary voices on the work and life of a pioneer. Zitzmann, run near Nuremberg 1960
  • Rolf Engert: Silvio Gesell in Munich 1919. Memories and documents from the time before, during and after the first Bavarian Soviet republic. Specialized publisher for social economy, Hannoversch Münden 1986.
  • Silvio Gesell exhibition 1987, Saint-Vith. Catalog, Hann. Münden 1988
  • Klaus Schmitt (Ed.): Silvio Gesell - “Marx” of the anarchists? Texts on the liberation of the market economy from capitalism and the children and mothers from patriarchal land law. Kramer, Berlin 1989, ISBN 3-87956-165-6 .
  • Hans-Joachim Werner: The history of the free economy movement, 100 years of struggle for a market economy without capitalism. Waxmann, Münster / New York 1990
  • Maria Magdalena Rapp-Blumenthal: Memories of Silvio Gesell and Georg Blumenthal. INWO 1990. ( PDF online )
  • Hermann Benjes : Who's Afraid of Silvio Gesell? The end of the interest economy brings work, prosperity and peace for everyone. Bickenbach, 1995, ISBN 3-00-000204-9 .
  • Werner Onken : Silvio Gesell and the natural economic order . An introduction to life and work. Gauke, Lütjenburg 1999, ISBN 978-3-87998-439-8 .
  • Werner Onken: Silvio Gesell in the Munich Räterepublik - One week People's Representative for Finance in April 1919 , Oldenburg 2018, ISBN 978-3-933891-31-0
  • Wolfgang Uchatius : Silvio Gesell: “Money has to rust!” . In: The time . No. 12, March 15, 2012 (Interview with Werner Onken)
  • Peter Bierl : Schwundgeld, Freiwirtschaft und Rassenwahn Critique of capitalism from the right: The Silvio Gesell case ( Memento from October 5, 2017 in the Internet Archive ). Konkret Verlag, 2012, Friedrich Burschel (Ed.), ISBN 978-3-930786-64-0 .
  • Werner Onken: Market economy without capitalism - From accumulation and concentration in the economy to its decentralization , Oldenburg 2019/2020 ( online )

Web links

Wikisource: Silvio Gesell  - Sources and full texts
Commons : Silvio Gesell  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

To theory



Video and audio

Individual evidence

  1. For example Bitcoin. An alternative currency from 1932 could give clues to the future (April 2018) ; viewed on February 2, 2020
  2. For example: Markus Seidel: Negative interest rates - Silvio Gesells triumph. In: Captital magazine. December 4, 2014, accessed December 29, 2019 .
  3. The entire handwritten postcard text reads: “The big house was built by my great-grandfather [arrow]. I met a lot of old friends here. Even though I haven't been there for 30 years, some stopped me in the streets. I know you bitch. They were all genuinely happy to see the lost Catholic sheep again. "
  4. ^ Tabular curriculum vitae of Gesell ; Accessed September 30, 2013
  5. See Werner Schmid : Silvio Gesell. The life story of a pioneer . Bern 1954. p. 10 ff
  6. Family research (Mathilde Hortense Josephine Talbot) ; accessed on March 4, 2018
  7. Komischer Gesell (August 24, 2012); accessed on March 13, 2018
  8. Quoted from Friedrich Salzmann: To the survivors. Thoughts by Silvio Gesell , Heidelberg 1948, p. 84f
  9. Peter Echevers: J. Silvio Gesell - The Revolution of the Money System ISBN 978-1-291-52576-2 , accessed on March 20, 2016
  10. ^ Frédéric Krier: Socialism for the petty bourgeoisie. Pierre Joseph Proudhon - pioneer of the Third Reich. Böhlau, Cologne / Weimar / Vienna 2009, p. 61 fu ö.
  11. Silvio Gesell - Collected Works : Foreword to Volume 13, 1921–1922, p. 16
  12. Peter Bierl: Schwundgeld, Freiwirtschaft und Rassenwahn Critique of Capitalism from the right: The Silvio Gesell case ( memento from October 5, 2017 in the Internet Archive ). Konkret Verlag, 2012, Friedrich Burschel (Ed.), ISBN 978-3-930786-64-0 .
  13. ^ Silvio Gesell in an open letter to the Berliner Zeitung am Mittag (1918); quoted from: Friedrich Salzmann (Ed.): To the survivors. Thoughts by Silvio Gesell , Heidelberg 1948, p. 10 f.
  14. See also Günter Bartsch: The NWO movement Silvio Gesells. Historical ground plan 1891–1992 / 93 , Lütjenburg 1994, p. 325
  15. Physiokratischer Verlag
  16. The Physiocrat
  17. ^ Günter Bartsch: The NWO movement Silvio Gesells. Historical ground plan 1891–1992 / 93 , Lütjenburg 1994, p. 325
  18. Erich Mühsam: From Eisner to Leviné. The emergence of the Bavarian Soviet Republic. Personal report on the revolutionary events in Munich . In: Hofenberg Collection. Berlin 2014. ISBN 3-8430-3892-9 . On-line
  19. Erich Mühsam: Obituary for Gesell's death. In: Fanal magazine . No. 7/1930. The full text of the obituary can also be found in Röhrig / Schmitt: Erich Mühsam: Ein Wegbahner. Obituary for Gesell's death in 1930 ; accessed on March 12, 2014
  20. ^ Gustav Landauer: Call for Socialism. A lecture , Volume 11 in the Selected Writings edited by Siegbert Wolf . Lich 2015. ISBN 978-3-86841-133-1 . P. 157ff
  21. Udo pillow Koetter: Gregor Strasser and the Nazi Party. Walter de Gruyter 1978, p. 96 f.
  22. ^ Gerhard Marckhgott: The "Gauarchiv Oberdonau". Construction and destruction of the NSDAP party archives in Upper Danube. In: Communications from the Upper Austrian Provincial Archives. Volume 19, Linz 2000, p. 355, online (PDF) in the forum
  23. Carl Amery: The Philosophical Foundations and Convergences of the Alternative Movement . In: Lüdtke / Dinné (ed.): The Greens - people, projects, programs. Stuttgart 1980, p. 13
  24. ^ Avraham Barkai : The economic system of National Socialism. Ideology, theory, politics. 1933-1945 . Fischer-Taschenbuch-Verlag, Frankfurt am Main 1988, p. 29; Hermann Weiß : Feder, Gottfried . In: Wolfgang Benz (Hrsg.): Handbuch des Antisemitismus . Vol. 2: People . De Gruyter Saur, Berlin 2009, ISBN 978-3-598-44159-2 , p. 225 (accessed from De Gruyter Online).
  25. ^ Werner Onken: Silvio Gesell in the IDGR lexicon against right-wing extremism on, accessed on February 9, 2016; Hans-Joachim Werner: History of the free economy movement , Waxmann, Münster / New York 1989, ISBN 3-89325-022-0 , Section 3.2.2 The free economy and National Socialism .
  26. ^ Gerhard Senft: Anti-capitalism from the right? - A settlement with Gottfried Feders "Breaking the interest bondage". Sozialö, accessed on March 18, 2019 (revised version of a lecture on April 29, 1995).
  27. Hans-Werner Holup: An introduction to the history of economic thinking. Volume V: The Economics of the 20th Century. Part 4: Further representatives of American economics and German economics. LIT Verlag, Vienna / Berlin 2014. p. 241
  28. ^ Frédéric Krier: Socialism for the petty bourgeoisie. Pierre Proudhon - pioneer of the Third Reich. Cologne / Weimar / Vienna 2009. p. 72
  29. ^ At a joint meal with Goebbels, Graf Helldorff , Kurt Daluege and 13 other members of the NSDAP leadership corps, Radecke (pseudonym Bankier Spreng ) gave a two-hour lecture on Silvio Gesell and the natural economic order ; see Günter Bartsch: The NWO movement Silvio Gesells. Historical ground plan 1891–1992 / 93 , Lütjenburg 1994, p. 106 f.
  30. ^ Günter Bartsch: The NWO movement Silvio Gesells. Historical ground plan 1891–1992 / 93 , Lütjenburg 1994, p. 106 f.
  31. ^ Wilhelm Radecke: The way out of need. Pasewalk [1932], p. 5
  32. ^ Frédéric Krier: Socialism for the petty bourgeoisie. Pierre Proudhon - pioneer of the Third Reich. Cologne / Weimar / Vienna 2009. p. 73
  33. ^ The exclusion was reversed by a pardon from Hitler; Werner Onken, Günter Bartsch: Natural economic order under the swastika. Adjustment and resistance . Lütjenburg 1997. p. 19
  34. After a few years, a fortnightly and later again to a monthly publication; see Günter Bartsch: The NWO movement Silvio Gesells. Historical ground plan 1891–1992 / 93 , Lütjenburg 1994, p. 119
  35. ^ Günter Bartsch: The NWO movement Silvio Gesells. Historical floor plan 1891–1992 / 93 , Lütjenburg 1994, p. 112 f.
  36. Irving Fisher: Stamp Scrip . New York 1933. p. 67
  37. John Maynard Keynes: General theory of employment, interest and money (translation from the English by Fritz Waeger). Berlin 1994 (unchanged 7th edition of the book published in 1936). ISBN 3-428-07985-X . Pp. 298-302
  38. Stamp money = free money
  39. History of the Human Economy Party Part 1 Chapter A (PDF; 145 kB)
  40. Christoph Scherrer: Hegemony-theoretical approaches to finance. Neogramscianism and Poststructuralism . In: Discourse and Hegemony. Socially critical perspectives . Transscript Verlag: Bielefeld 2012. ISBN 978-3-8376-1928-7 . P. 173
  41. ^ Benoît Cœuré: Life below zero: Learning about negative interest rates. September 9, 2014, accessed September 13, 2014 .
  42. ^ Robert Skidelsky: I agree with Syriza: the way back to prosperity is not austerity but debt relief. In: New Statesman. February 6, 2015, accessed March 8, 2015 .
  43. ^ Stanley Fischer: Monetary Policy, Financial Stability, and the Zero Lower Bound. Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, January 3, 2016, accessed March 22, 2016 (see also References ).
  44. Quoted from Beate Sauer: Virtual currencies and online payment systems . In: ZfSÖ. Journal of Social Economics . ISSN 0721-0752. Volume 54: No. 194/195 (November 2017). Pp. 40-49; here: p. 47, column II (chapter Bitcoin as alternative free money? )
  45. What should be achieved with the Freicoin? ; viewed on February 2, 2020
  46. The Miracle of Wörgl (TV premiere) . Retrieved November 30, 2018.
  47. ^ BR: Feature film "The Wonder of Wörgl" and documentary "Der Geldmacher" . Retrieved April 16, 2019.
  48. Arte Geie, accessed July 5, 2019 .
  49. Esther Brunner: Did Silvio Gesell promote anti-Semitism? 2004, p. 1; Ronald Blaschke, Adeline Otto and Norbert Schepers, Basic Income: History - Models - Debates. Dietz 2010, p. 129.
  50. a b Werner Onken: For a different world with a different money. Contribution to the Attac Summer Academy on August 1, 2004 in Dresden, p. 10 ( PDF )
  51. Werner Onken: Silvio Gesell in the IDGR lexicon against right-wing extremism. Version dated January 4, 2006 ( available online ).
  52. a b Johannes Heinrichs: Jump out of the vicious circle. Steno Verlag 2005, p. 49
  53. ^ Arno Klönne: Market economy without capitalism. Radio lecture on August 20, 1991 in WDR 3
  54. Elmar Altvater: Another world with what money? In: Scientific Advisory Board of Attac-Germany (Hrsg.): Criticism of globalization and anti-Semitism - on the discussion of anti-Semitism in Attac. (Reader No. 3), Frankfurt 2004, p. 28 ( PDF )
  55. Elmar Altvater: Another world with what money? In: Scientific Advisory Board of Attac-Germany (Hrsg.): Criticism of globalization and anti-Semitism - on the discussion of anti-Semitism in Attac. (Reader No. 3), Frankfurt 2004, pp. 3, 19, 25 and 34 ( PDF )
  56. a b Werner Onken: The relationship of the money and land reform to Judaism and anti-Semitism. , PDF version of the page from May 11, 2007 ( available online ).
  57. Silvio Gesell conference center Wuppertal: Why Silvio Gesell? ; accessed on March 24, 2017